In Our View: Mischievous Modifications

There's never a Dull moment, except in Oregon, when new state laws take effect



If you are mischievous in Washington, 2014 might not be your year. A change in the law went into effect on Jan. 1, switching the name of the crime of "riot" to "criminal mischief." The goal, apparently, is to make it easier to charge people who participate in such activities.

Now, that might or might not be relevant to you; it depends upon how riotous, er, um, mischievous you are. But it does stand as one of 11 new state laws that now are in effect, following several regulations that went into effect in July. Most of the new rules represent technical changes that will not impact the daily lives of Washingtonians. But they must mean something to somebody, or else they wouldn't become law, right?

For example, while driving to your mischievous proceedings, you now may use a car that has a special Seattle Sounders FC or a Seattle Seahawks license plate. Those have been added to the state's roster of special plates, joining the likes of colleges and universities, military and veterans, environmental concerns, and hobbies such as square dancing. The state offers no suggestions about what to do if you are a veteran who went to Washington State and enjoys square dancing; you'll probably have to pick just one or purchase extra cars. But given the Sea-hawks' success this year and their Super Bowl aspirations, you might want to get down to the vehicle licensing office today and pick one up. It's probably time to replace that woeful Seattle Mariners license plate, anyway.

There are other rule changes in Washington, as well. The minimum wage has gone up to $9.32 an hour, the highest in the nation; but that number is tied to inflation and isn't really new. And the crime of "retail theft with extenuating circumstances" has been changed to "retail theft with special circumstances"; but that doesn't matter unless you are a thief.

When it comes to changes in the law for 2014, at least Washington is more exciting than Oregon. Our neighbor to the south, for example, has declared that Aug. 9 of each year will be Boring and Dull Day, in honor of the Clackamas County town of Boring and its sister city of Dull, Scotland. Us Washingtonians, of course, decided long ago that every day is Boring and Dull Day in Oregon, but that's just us.

Each of these is part of an estimated 40,000 new laws, regulations, and resolutions approved by state legislatures in 2013. That number comes from the National Conference of State Legislatures, and it requires attribution because it works out to an absurd 800 new regulations per state. In Illinois, anybody under the age of 18 will be barred from using tanning beds, and anybody who flicks a cigarette butt on a street or sidewalk can be fined $50 for littering. In Oregon, new mothers will be allowed to take the placenta home. In Delaware, the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins is prohibited. And in California, students must be allowed to play sports and use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity regardless of their birth identity. We'll wait a moment while that one sinks in …

Yes, Washington's new laws seem rather mundane when compared with some states. Retail marijuana stores are scheduled to open in a couple months, and that will make for an interesting change, but there also is a new law clarifying confidentiality rules for county coroners, and there is a new $2 fee when businesses request information from the Department of Licensing about a vehicle owner. Exciting? Not really. But we still say it's better than Boring and Dull.