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David Boze: The good, the bad, and ridiculous new laws in Washington

Washington state capital in Olympia. (AP file photo)

We have a bunch of new laws in Washington state are taking effect in Jan. 1. Here are a few highlights.

Smoking age goes from 18 to 21

This is one of those strange things where there are all these efforts to make some things older and some things younger. Don’t get me wrong — it’s dumb to smoke, I’m not a smoker, I don’t like smoking, and I don’t like breathing your smoke. But it’s not like there’s a mental impairment that comes with smoking as with something like alcohol or cannabis. So the idea that we have to raise the smoking age to 21 seems strange. I completely get the public health standpoint. But it seems like we’re picking and choosing, saying that 18-year-olds are adults in some ways but not others. It seems a little unfair to me. I feel like at 18, you can be prosecuted as an adult, so you should get those adult privileges.

Minimum wage raised to $13.50 per hour

In some cities like SeaTac, where the minimum wage is well over $15 an hour, this won’t change anything. For some workers in other cities, they will see a raise. For other workers, this means that the minimum wage is going up to … zero. Every time the minimum wage goes up, there is a number of people who will be helped and will celebrate, but there is also a number of people who are frozen out of the job market. Those individuals will have more trouble finding a job now, because employers cannot afford to hire as many people. Also, remember that for some of the smaller businesses out there — people living off of very thin margins —  the increase in the minimum wage also increases the number of other expenses for each hour worked by each employee, such as social security, Medicare, and paid leave. So those business owners could now be on the margins, and their businesses could even end.

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This is the kind of thing that government loves to do, because the politicians are able to take credit for something without having to make sacrifices themselves. They force other people to make these changes and then they don’t have to live with the consequences, because nobody sees them. They are invisible, except to the person who is negatively affected. The person who does not get a job is not going to be obvious, because they just won’t get hired. In contrast, the person making more money will be very visible, because they will be able to say, “Hey look, I’m making more money doing the same thing I was before.” The benefits are very visible, while the negative side effects are not visible. My question is, where does it end? If it works for $13.50, will it go up to $20 or $30?

Car seat laws change

This one really drives me crazy — as someone who has small children and deals with car seats all the time. Under the new laws, kids have to be in a rear-facing car seat up to age 2. I get it — that’s neck development, it matters a great deal to me. Also, kids under 4 have to be in a harnessed car seat. Again, I get it. I’m all about safe kids.

Here’s the part that bugs me. Children have to be in a booster seat until they are 4-foot-9 or 13 years old, according to the new laws; in the current law, kids only have to wait until 4-foot-9 or age 8. I know that there is a safety issue here, but making kids use a booster seat through age 12? Plenty of people get to say they don’t want to vaccinate their kids — I think going without a vaccination is more dangerous than going without a car seat at 11. This new law also requires kids who are over the height requirement but under 13 to ride in the back. I understand wanting to keep kids safe, but I remember riding in the front seat with my parents and my grandpa, and there’s something special about getting to sit side-by-side with your parents. It’s one-on-one, you feel more adult, and it’s quality time together. This is an era when a lot of family time gets used up on the road. But the government is telling us that everything is so dangerous that the kids have to be in the back the whole time. This nanny state is just going too far.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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