YAKIMA — A new state license plate that celebrates Washington wine will be available later this year, now that it’s been approved by the state Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee.
A Yakima Valley winery owner helped gather signatures to promote and push the bill to passage.
“This will help generate dollars for the state tourism (bureau),” said Emily Fergestrom, co-owner of Fortuity Cellars near Wapato and a Washington Wine Institute board member. “With the wine industry a big part of tourism, the license plate is a win-win for everybody.”
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, who with her husband, Jeff, owns a vineyard in the Lake Chelan American Viticultural Area.
Under House Bill 1530, a fee of $40 will be charged for the plate, which will feature a scenic landscape of Washington wine country. All funds generated from sales of the plate, as well as from the $30 renewal fee, will go to State of Washington Tourism to advocate, promote, develop and sustain destination tourism marketing across the state.
Chambers noted she sponsored similar legislation since 2019 that was twice approved by the House, but never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.
This year, House Bill 1530 was approved 84-11 in the House on Feb. 26 and 46-2 in the Senate on March 9 before Inslee signed it on March 24. It will go into effect on Nov. 1.
“I am so grateful the third time was the charm with this bill,” Chambers said in a news release. “Not only was there tremendous grassroots support for creating a Washington wine license plate, but there was also overwhelming support from lawmakers in both chambers.
“The revenue generated from sales of the plate is really going to help our tourism industry, as well as our small mom-and-pop shops, hospitality businesses, local restaurants and Main Street retail,” Chambers added. “In recent years, they have survived lockdowns, mandates and onerous regulations. I’m pleased we’re going to be able to support them with the revenue generated by this bill as they continue recovering from the pandemic.”
Nearly 4,000 Washingtonians signed a petition created by Chambers in support of creating the specialty plate, and Fortuity Cellars’ Fergestrom said she was happy to help gather those signatures.
“The big push was to get those petition signatures so the Legislature would take (the bill) seriously,” Fergestrom said. “Whenever there’s a license plate bill coming through, that’s the first hurdle you need to clear.
“It was an online process, but it was fun for us to see people’s names pop up after they signed,” she added. “It felt good to see our club members (at Fortuity Cellars) support us.”
According to the Washington State Wine Commission, there are 1,050 licensed wineries in the Evergreen State, and Washington is the second among the 50 states in wine production. There are about 400 wine grape growers, many of them in Central and Eastern Washington, with more than 60,000 acres of grapes. The commission estimates the annual in-state impact of the wine industry at more than $8 billion.
The state has more than 60 license plate designs, with special designs supporting colleges and universities, military branches and veterans, national and state parks, the environment, specific organizations and special interests ranging from professional sports teams to the Washington Apple Education Foundation.
Vehicle owners will soon be able to show their support for the wine industry, an opportunity other states, such as Oregon, have offered for the past decade.
“For us, and for our industry in particular to stay healthy, we need the visitors, and this new plate will help promote our state to them,” Fergestrom said. “It should be a help to us here in the Yakima Valley.”