(June 3)WENATCHEE, Wash. — It will be business as usual for the Washington Apple Commission now that the judge involved in the commission lawsuit has approved the changes made during the settlement of the case a year ago.

Of course, the day-to-day business of the commission during the past year has been wildly different than it was before U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea’s March 2003 ruling that the commission’s marketing programs and per-box assessments violated the First Amendment.

Since then the commission has cut more than 50 jobs and slashed per-box assessments from 40 cents to 3½ cents. It had operated on a budget of $40 million but now operates on about $3 million.

In April 2003, then-president Welcome Sauer announced that the commission would close its doors permanently, but a settlement was reached the next month that would allow the commission to carry on its nonspeech functions, as well as its efforts to open foreign markets.

At the time, Judge Shea retained jurisdiction over the case for a year to make sure the agreed-upon changes took place.

A June 1 conference call between Shea, the lawyers representing all sides and three commissioners put the judge’s seal of approval on the revamped commission.

The judge asked whether everyone was satisfied with the changes to the commission and how well it had adhered to the settlement, said Mike Hambleton, chairman of the commission. Participants in the call said they were.

“The judge ruled to allow the apple commission to continue to engage in nonspeech activities,” Hambleton said. “This was a reversal of his previous ruling before the settlement. So the apple commission is in business as it has been for the past several months with the 3½-cent assessment, and the activities they have been doing have been ruled to be OK. It would take a new legal action for someone to take the commission back before the court.”