Fortunato highway cleanup bill signed into law

The “Welcome to Washington” act will go into effect in 90 days.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee just signed a new anti-litter bill into law.

Senate Bill 5040, known as the “Welcome to Washington Act,” will go into effect in 90 days. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Phil Fortunato of the 31st Legislative District, which includes Enumclaw.

“As an environmental compliance guy, the litter on state roadways is infuriating and so was the bureaucracy preventing government from doing anything about it,” Fortunato said in a May 11 press release. “I’m glad this small but meaningful policy is going to make a visible difference for our residents and visitors to our beautiful state.”

The cleanup utilizes the little-known litter tax that exists on products considered proximate to the litter problem, such a beer cans, household paper products and glass containers.

Fortunato said he thought of the proposal while traveling for work, noting that when entering Washington from Oregon, travelers see a big “Welcome to Washington” sign and are greeted with trash on the side of the highway.

“You can furnish a house with what you find,” Fortunato joked.

The increased coordination under the proposal means the agencies will step up anti-litter public-awareness campaigns and emphasize enforcement against litterbugs by the State Patrol. In addition, the measure will permit interagency work during road work or maintenance to conduct debris pickups. The law also allows local jurisdictions to apply for reimbursement related to litter control activities on state highway ramps.

“I’m encouraging local jurisdictions to submit estimates to the state Department of Ecology for the cost of cleaning up off-ramps to their cities,” Fortunato added. “I think there is still a couch on the way to Auburn that I might have to put on Offer-Up while waiting for this law to take effect.”