Wilson bill on vehicle-license fraud crosses finish line on session’s final day

OLYMPIA…The Legislature today gave final approval to Sen. Lynda Wilson’s bill targeting unlawful out-of-state licensing of vehicles by Washington residents.

Votes in the House of Representatives yesterday and the Senate today completed a remarkable run for Senate Bill 5362 that saw the legislation come off the sidelines and fly through the Legislature just before the end of its 105-day session.

SB 5362 would allow a one-time deferred prosecution as an incentive for vehicle owners to comply with state law, which gives new Washington residents 30 days to switch their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

“They say no bill is dead as long as the Legislature is in session, and this is proof,” said Wilson, R-Vancouver. “Four days ago the Senate pulled this bill out of what is literally called the ‘X’ file, and now we’re on the way to a new law to address an issue that is all too familiar in Clark County.”

SB 5362 had stalled after being approved by the Senate Transportation Committee. Wilson’s efforts to get the bill moving again led to a unanimous Senate vote Thursday, and a unanimous vote by the House on a slightly amended version Saturday. The Senate agreed unanimously today with the House changes, which involve lining the bill up with other deferred-prosecution statutes.

“As I’ve said all along, the message here is clear: if you’re a legal resident of Washington, your vehicles need to be registered in our state, and this new law should make that easier to enforce,” said Wilson, R-Vancouver.

It’s unlawful for a Washington resident to license a vehicle in another state to avoid paying registration fees and sales tax. About 20,000 vehicles in Clark County have license plates from elsewhere, mostly Oregon, at a cost to Washington of about $16 million each year in lost revenue.

Under the new law a first-time violator would not receive the standard, automatic $1,529 fine but a citation that would be dismissed if the vehicle owner goes to court and pays a $500 fine, obtains a valid Washington driver’s license and registers the vehicle in question. Owners who do not comply within 90 days of being cited will be subject to the $1,529 fine.