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Originally published Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Groups push 3 initiatives toward Wash. ballot

The three leading initiatives seeking to qualify for this year's ballot in Washington state look a lot like proposals that voters have previously addressed.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

The three leading initiatives seeking to qualify for this year's ballot in Washington state look a lot like proposals that voters have previously addressed.

Groups plan to submit signatures Friday for ballot measures that would privatize the state's liquor sales, limit how the state can set highway tolls and require background checks for long-term-care workers. Sponsors said the initiatives are necessary because of both the actions and inactions of the Legislature.

"It's a tug of war," said initiative promoter Tim Eyman. "We're going back and forth."

Seeking a return to the ballot for a second year in a row is a proposal to privatize the state's liquor sales. A group of restaurants and retailers, including Costco, said the measure is different from the one voters rejected just eight months ago.

The latest proposal would generate new revenues for state and local governments, dedicate money for public safety programs and restrict sales from convenience stores and gas stations. Those changes are designed to address concerns that last year's proposal raised public safety risks and impacted government budgets.

Bruce Beckett, government affairs director at the Washington Restaurant Association, said the concerns raised last year were legitimate and led to the initiative's alterations.

"We learned a lot," Beckett said. He said voters are ready to embrace the new initiative.

Stores that get liquor licenses would pay 17 percent of liquor revenues to the state. Liquor distribution businesses would give the state as much as 10 percent of their revenues.

Eyman's latest initiative is a follow-up to his last one, which required the Legislature to have a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases and a simple majority to approve new fees. This year's initiative would require the Legislature to approve tolls and prevent lawmakers from shifting that duty to the state transportation commission.

It would also prohibit toll revenue from being used for non-transportation purposes.

The third initiative scheduled to turn in signatures Friday is backed by the Service Employees International Union and would reinstate background checks, training and other requirements for long-term care workers and providers. The Legislature delayed those rules because of large budget shortfalls.

"It was approved so overwhelmingly in 2008 because it's just basic common sense," said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the initiative. "Nothing has changed since then except that the will of the voters has been ignored."

Backers of a fourth initiative that would have required businesses to provide egg-laying hens with more spacious cages dropped their plan Thursday because of a national agreement between the industry and animal welfare groups.

A fifth active initiative that would legalize marijuana appeared to be short of signatures Thursday. Douglas Hiatt, an attorney pushing the measure, said signatures were still coming and that they were scheduling an appointment to bring in the signatures just in case.

"I don't think we're going to have enough to turn in," Hiatt said.

Groups need to get more than 240,000 valid signatures to get on the November ballot. State officials recommend that they submit at least 320,000 to account for any invalid or duplicate signatures.

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Associated Press writer Gene Johnson contributed to this report from Seattle.

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