Legislators join forces to forge bipartisan changes to driver’s licenses and identicards

Last Friday, the House passed Senate Bill 6429, sponsored by Senator Sharon Brown (R- Kennewick) which permits Washingtonians to add new designations on driver’s licenses and identicards. Persons with developmental disabilities, medical conditions, and members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community can voluntarily add this information to these key documents.

“This bill has the potential to save lives,” said Brown. “If a caregiver is injured and unable to speak, there could be a misunderstanding between first responders and a person who has a disability and may be non-communicative. This bill would give parents an extra tool in their toolbox to help their child should they find themselves in a bad situation.”

The bill as passed by the Senate only addressed designations for individuals with developmental disabilities. With deadlines looming, legislators realized that they could join forces to come up with a more comprehensive law. House Bill 2440 sponsored by Representative Christine Kilduff (D-University Place) and House Bill 2272 sponsored by Representative Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) proposed adding voluntary designations to driver’s licenses and identicards for people with medical conditions and people who are Deaf or hard of hearing respectively.

Working with Representative Joe Schmick (R-Colfax), who sponsored the companion bill to Senate Bill 6429, all three bills were combined into one and passed minutes before a critical legislative deadline that could have potentially derailed all three bills.

“I am grateful to our colleagues across the aisle, Senator Brown and Representative Schmick, who worked with me and Representative Orwall to add our proposals to the Senator’s. This bipartisan cooperation resulted in commonsense designations on driver’s licenses and identicards that will improve safety and public communication,” said Kilduff.

Together, these designations on driver’s licenses or identicards will enhance public communication and interaction. For instance, interactions at a roadside stop or accident scene will be smoother because law enforcement and first responders can have more information about drivers or passengers. Under the bill, information provided in connection with these designations will remain confidential but providing information at the start of an interaction decreases the risk of misunderstanding and can help public officials accommodate those who need it.

“This is a small, inclusive step forward to improve communication in times of crisis to keep all members of our community safe,” said Orwall. “We thank the members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community for leading on this issue statewide.”

Since the bill was amended by the House it returned to the Senate today, where the House changes were approved by a vote of 48-0. The bill now goes to the governor for his consideration.