We are, it is often said, a nation of laws, which means that last week was a good one for the Ostrea lurida. The Ostrea lurida, you see, is Washington’s official oyster species. It says so right there in the law, the one that took effect Thursday along with a bunch of other new laws.
“The Ostrea lurida is hereby designated the official oyster of the state of Washington. This native oyster species plays an important role in the history and culture that surrounds shellfish in Washington state and along the west coast of the United States.” That’s what it says in Substitute Senate Bill 6145, which passed the Senate by a vote of 48-1 and passed the House 94-4. Not sure which legislators voted against it, but we’re guessing they were influenced by lobbying efforts from the Ostrea edulis and the Ostrea gigas.
Anyway, the Ostrea lurida now proudly takes its place alongside “Washington, My Home” (state song), steelhead trout (state fish), petrified wood (state gem), and others as official symbols of Washington. We’re guessing you can figure out the official state fruit, but we admit to surprise that the apple was not designated until 1989.
Not that the official designation of the Ostrea lurida was the only law to take effect last week. Many bills that were passed by the Legislature and signed this year went live on June 12, because laws typically take effect 90 days after the close of the legislative session in which they were passed. This year, that meant that 192 new laws were christened Thursday. Among them:
o The Washington Dream Act will allow young people who were brought to the state illegally to be eligible for financial aid for college. The students must have lived in the state for at least three years and must have a high school diploma or equivalent. While many arguments can be made over the wisdom of providing support for illegal immigrants, it makes sense to identify high achievers and to help them help themselves.
o A new law makes it easier for veterans to qualify for in-state college tuition. Again, it makes sense to take people who have demonstrated uncommon dedication and commitment, and work to keep them in Washington.
o Another new law gives judges the ability to revoke a person’s right to carry firearms if they have a restraining or protective order against them and are deemed a credible threat. So long as due process is observed, it makes sense to try to keep guns out of the hands of crazies.
o And three new laws are related to human trafficking and are dedicated to reducing the practice. Among them, victims of trafficking can have prostitution convictions cleared from their records, which means they rightly will be treated as victims rather than criminals.
Each of these items can have a very real human impact on our state. But sometimes they aren’t as much fun to discuss as the less notable laws that come into being. Like one this year regulating the sale of cider. Or one dealing with damage caused by vehicles on primitive roads. Or one allowing motorcycle riders to proceed through a red light — with caution — if they have been stopped for a certain time and the light has not turned green.
These new laws are important to somebody somewhere, which is one of the beauties of our governmental system. An idea needn’t impact a majority of the populace in order to be a good idea. And that’s good news for the Ostrea lurida.