New laws cover Gold Star license plates, marijuana in schools and robotic delivery

May 1, 2019

OLYMPIA – Gold Star families will have their license tabs automatically renewed. Students who use medical marijuana for certain conditions won’t have to leave campus to take their medicine. And robotic delivery devices will be able to travel on sidewalks and crosswalks.

Those were among more than three dozen bills signed Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, who has scores more to sign or veto in the next three weeks.

The Gold Star license bill started with the Spokane family of Marine Sgt. Jacob Hess, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014. When his mother and stepfather, Keirsten and Matt Lyons, went to renew their plate last fall, they couldn’t do it online and had trouble renewing it at a Department of Licensing office even though they had the proper documentation.

The department said it was a result of a computer problem because of a change in software. But Keirsten Lyons told a House committee that Gold Star families shouldn’t have to stand at a counter and certify their hearts are broken.

Hess’ aunt, Lynn Yarnall, attended the signing ceremony as did Myra Ritamaki, whose son Steven was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004. Although the department said the glitch has been fixed, systems change and another problem could arise, Ritamaki said.

“You feel extremely vulnerable in public because this brings back a flood of emotion,” Ritamaki said of the need to show proof of a family member’s death at a department office.

Gold Star families won’t have to recertify their plates under the new law. After the initial certification, the plates will be issued without any license fees and the plates can be transferred from one vehicle to another.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the sponsor of the bill, said it was an example of good legislation coming from constituents. The Lyons family contacted him after their problem renewing their plates, and a bill was drafted that passed both chambers unanimously.

Another bill that passed the Legislature with strong support directs school districts to set policies for the consumption of marijuana infused products for medical purposes if a parent of a patient requests it. Currently, students who take medical marijuana have to leave campus to take that medicine.

Inslee said students shouldn’t have to miss class to take their medicine.

The policies must verify that the student and the parents who administer the drug are registered in the state’s medical marijuana authorization database. A parent can administer the drug on campus, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event.

The superintendent of public instruction must suspend those district policies if the federal government says they would result in the schools losing federal funding.

Inslee also signed legislation that requires any city or county with an ordinance that bans a particular breed of dog to have a process for owners of individual dogs to be exempt if they pass a Canine Good Citizen Test and continue to pass it every two years.

While most bills were pulled from a line of legislation stretching almost the length of a conference table, one showed up in an autonomous personal delivery device that looked like a large cooler on six wheels, with an orange warning flag on a stick.

Inslee opened the lid, reached in and pulled out the bill to sign.

The device, from Starship Technologies, was one of a number that could be used in Seattle and other cities. Amazon is testing out deliveries with the devices and a university in Virginia already uses them to deliver food to students on campus.

A business that uses a personal delivery device can only operate it on sidewalks or in crosswalks, must obey all right-of-way laws, have an operator that monitors its travel and maintain liability insurance of at least $100,000.