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Originally published Monday, December 24, 2012 at 5:40 PM

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New license plates salute 4-H, rhodies

New specialty license plates available in January will feature the 4-H clover emblem and the Washington state flower, the rhododendron.

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Specialty license plates in Washington state benefit not only the state but the organizations they feature.

Among the special plates authorized this year by the state Legislature, one promotes the state's largest youth-development program and one honors our state flower.

Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, a former 4-H member, sponsored the House bill that will allow the design of a license plate with the 4-H clover. An amendment by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, established a license plate honoring the rhododendron as the state flower. Both designs will be available starting in January.

"The specialized 4-H license plates will be a wonderful way for current 4-H families as well as alumni and supporters to increase awareness about the 4-H program as they drive across town or across the state," said Pat Boyes, 4-H Youth Development director, Washington State University Extension.

Money raised will go toward activities to support the 90,000 4-H youths through the 4-H Programs Account.

The state-flower plate will create a stable revenue stream for the Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens on Whidbey Island and other garden associations around the state, through the new State Flower Account.

"This is extremely important, as Meerkerk Gardens is a relatively small nonprofit," said Don Lee, president emeritus of the gardens' board of directors. "This could very easily become the major income stream for us. It has the potential to stabilize our budget and even allow us to expand."

As with other specialty plates, the two new plates will cost $40 beyond the standard fees and taxes charged for state license plates; renewal will cost $30.

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