Gregoire signs political advertising bill into law

OLYMPIA — Political advertisements for and against ballot initiatives will have to name the top five donors to the political committee putting out the ad thanks to a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The bill is one of dozens that the governor signed just days before they would automatically be made law if she hadn’t taken action.

The measure applies to ads that cost $1,000 or more, and to donors giving more than $700 over a 12-month period.

The law, which passed the Legislature with strong Democratic support and some Republican opposition, will take effect in June.

“There are organizations making mega-donations to support ballot measures,” said Rep. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the bill’s primary sponsor. “They should stand by those donations publicly.”

Ballot initiative enthusiast and bill opponent Tim Eyman counters that voters are sophisticated enough to know who is backing a ballot initiative.

“It will be a cumbersome requirement, especially for radio ads,” said Eyman, who added that he doesn’t expect it to affect his own initiative efforts.

Gregoire also signed into law a measure cracking down on Medicaid fraud. The law will allow the state to collect three times the amount of money it was defrauded. A prime target of the law is pharmaceutical companies who illegally market off-label uses of drugs to doctors who then inappropriately prescribe them to Medicaid patients.

Another bill the governor signed into law will shift oversight of attorneys for sex offenders in civil commitment proceedings from the Department of Social and Health Services to the Office of Public Defense, which will no longer allow lawyers to bill by the hour. The measure is expected to save the state over $7 million per year.

In addition, Gregoire signed into a law a bill that will allow one Discover Pass — a $30 annual parking pass for visitors to state parks — to be shared by two vehicles. The law also creates a $50 Discover Pass that can be transferred among any family vehicle.

On Thursday night, Gregoire approved the revival of tax incentives for movie production. That program, which would give away an estimated $3.5 million per year, had expired last year amid the state budget debate.

Oregon and British Columbia have competitive incentives, so supporters believe film producers who would otherwise work in Washington are going elsewhere. The program offers a 30 percent rebate off the amount of money spent in the state.

“Renewing the competiveness program will continue to spur job creation and have a multiplier effect for every dollar invested throughout the economy,” Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said.

Gregoire on Friday vetoed a measure that would have expanded the “Blueprint for Safety” program, intended to improve worker safety and lower employer costs through voluntary technical assistance. In her veto letter, she wrote that restrictions in the bill on how the expansion could be paid for were problematic.

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Associated Press reporter Mike Baker contributed to this report.

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