New state laws impact film, teachers, universities

OLYMPIA — The film industry is getting incentives reinstated. Teachers are getting a new evaluation system. Universities are getting new rules on how to handle abuse allegations.

Dozens of new laws approved by Washington lawmakers earlier this year took effect on Thursday, though two of the most contentious proposals were not implemented as planned. Opponents of same-sex marriage filed signatures Wednesday to force a public vote on the issue while a federal judge temporarily blocked the trafficking law, which would require classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements.

The website has been battling the trafficking law, arguing that the rules are invalid even if the goals are laudable. It allows for the criminal prosecution of classified advertising company representatives who publish or cause publication of sex-related ads peddling children. Proof of a good-faith attempt to verify the age of the advertised person is considered a defense under the law.

One law seeking to protect minors, approved in the wake of the scandal at Penn State University, did take effect Thursday. Under the new rules, university administrative, academic and athletic staff to the list of those required to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Social and Health Services or to police.

Lawmakers renewed the film incentives law this year after letting it lapse in 2011. Supporters contend that the incentives are necessary in order to prevent film projects from going to neighboring states that have better benefits.

Amy Lillard, the executive director at Washington Filmworks, said incentives remain a key issue for filmmakers since about three dozen other states have them. She said the not-for-profit organization, which handles the incentives program, has already had four applications for projects that would be filming over the summer months.

“Yes, we have wonderful locations here. We have a beautiful state. But that’s not the only thing being considered here. At the end of the day, you have to have a whole package,” Lillard said.

The program offers a 30 percent rebate off the amount of money spent in the state and can give away about $3.5 million per year.

Under the new teacher evaluation bill, improvement in student test scores will be included on a list of factors that principals use to assess teachers. The measure details how a poor evaluation could lead to a teacher being put on probation or being terminated.

The Washington Education Association, which represents teachers, had concerns about the bill when it passed earlier this year. WEA spokesman Rich Wood said Thursday that teachers are working to make sure that the law treats educators fairly, consistently and in a way that everyone knows what’s being evaluated and how it will be used.

“It’s law now, so teachers in every school district across the state are working with administrators on the details,” Wood said. “We’re working hard now to implement it in the best way possible.”

School districts are required to start implementing the new system no later than the 2013-14 school year and complete implementation two years later.

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