Thanks to vineyard owner/lawmaker Kelly Chambers, the bill that would create the Washington Wine license plate needs only Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature in order to become law.
It took the three years of meetings, petitions and consensus building in the state Legislature for Chambers, a House Republican from Puyallup, to get the Senate to vote 46-2 on Wednesday in favor of House Bill 1530.
“I joke many times that I’ve worked harder on this license plate than I did to get elected,” Chambers said with a chuckle Saturday morning while speaking with the Senate Transportation Committee. “I have businesses in Oregon and Washington, and we have some company cars with this Oregon wine country license plate on them. I thought, ‘Oh, those are pretty! We should do something like that in Washington,’ but it’s really evolved into learning what some of our tourism needs are.”
Chambers and her husband, Jeff, also own Lomcevak Cellars near Manson in the Lake Chelan American Viticultural Area. Proceeds from the license plate sales are earmarked for The State of Washington Tourism, formerly the Washington Tourism Alliance.
The bill passed out of the House 84-11 on Feb. 26. It creates a special Washington wine industry license plate and establishes fees of $40 for the original, $30 for a renewed plate. It stands to be the state’s 43rd special license plate, and the act would take effect Nov. 1.
In an email Wednesday evening to followers of the legislation, Chambers wrote, “I want to thank Kathryn Hedrick from WA State Destination Marketing Organizations, Josh McDonald from the Washington Wine Institute, and Kieran Murry from Let’s Talk About NW Wines for helping on this project and engaging your members.”
A decade later, Washington’s plate will follow Oregon
In 2011, the Oregon Legislature authorized the first wine-themed license plate in the country, and more than 6,000 were sold in the first year. Department of Licensing in Washington state estimates there will be 1,198 of the wine country license plates ordered in 2022 with potential revenue to The State of Washington Tourism at $33,544.
“I have always loved the Oregon Wine Country license plate and thought Washington should have its own version, considering the size and significance of the Washington Wine industry,” Chambers said.
“So, when I was elected (in 2018), I set out on a mission to make this happen. Over the last 3 years, this bill has been through a lot of ups and downs, but I have remained committed to seeing it through, knowing that the businesses in our state that rely on visitors will be the beneficiaries of the funds this license plate will generate.”
Supporters of HB 1530 who watched Chambers interact with the Senate Transportation Committee on Saturday morning probably came away optimistic of the bill’s passage, particularly because of the bipartisan support.
Sen. Marko Liias (D-Everett), the committee chair who made headlines last month for his criticism of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, introduced Chambers as, “The very determined and intrepid Representative Chambers, who has worked very hard on this proposal for two years.”
Sen. John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), who spent 31 years with Washington State Patrol and served 13 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, referenced the 4,000 signatures and 600 comments that Chambers’s petition for the bill received.
“That’s a lot of work, and your determination is commendable,” Lovick told Chambers.
Sen. Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) wrote in an email to Great Northwest Wine, “It would be great to have this license plate.”
The two state Senators who voted against HB 1530 were Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) and Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley).
WA Wine license plate to depict landscape
Bryon Moore, senior fiscal analyst for Senate Transportation Committee, pointed out the legislation specifies that the design of the license plate “will be depicting the landscape associated with wine production.”
Liias wryly said, “I was concerned we would have a glass of wine on our license plates, which — while wonderful — may be counter to some of our other messages. Good to hear we’re talking about the landscape.”
Last year, Chambers sponsored legislation that allows workers ages 18 to 20 to work in winery production as long as an adult 21 years of age or older is on duty supervising. Gov. Inslee signed House Bill 1289, which helps expand the workforce pool in Washington’s wine industry. Before, individuals under the age of 21 were prohibited from working full-time at a Washington state winery unless enrolled in a post-secondary school program. And if they were under the age of 21 after graduating, they still were prohibited from engaging in production-related work at a winery.
This session, the efforts by Chambers on behalf of the Washington wine industry will be more consumer-driven.
“I will keep you informed as we finalize a design of the new Washington Wine License plate and will work with the Department of Licensing to let you know how you will be able to get one for yourself,” Chambers wrote.
“I probably should warn you though,” she added, “if you’re driving one day and a lady in a black SUV pulls alongside you honking and waving … that will be ME celebrating your license plate!”