August 15, 2013 •
Voters to choose representative for vacant House District 91
Gov. Bill Haslam has finally decided when voters in the state’s 91st House District will head to the polls to replace their state representative. In July, Lois DeBerry passed away after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Haslam announced the primary election to replace with DeBerry will occur on October 8 and the general election will take place on November 21. No candidates have announced their intention to run for the vacant seat, but they have until August 29 to file petitions to run in the primary.
Photo of Gov. Bill Haslam courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
August 12, 2013 •
Bill also changes how lobbyists may collect contributions
Gov. Pat McCrory signed a controversial bill into law and it will change how lobbyists are able to bundle contributions. McCrory signed House Bill 589 into law Monday. McCrory eschewed a typical signing ceremony and instead announced his approval with a 95-second YouTube clip. The bill, which has been heavily criticized by voter’s rights groups, will require, among other things, voters to show identification at the polls starting with the 2016 elections.
McCrory, in his YouTube clip said, “North Carolinians overwhelmingly support a common sense law that requires voters to present photo identification in order to cast a ballot. I am proud to sign this legislation into law. Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
The bill also makes it illegal for lobbyists to collect checks from one or multiple donors and deliver them to state candidates. Previously, only collecting checks from multiple donors and delivering them to a state candidate was illegal. However, under the new law, collecting a single check from one donor and delivering it to a state candidate is not allowed either. This provision of the law will go into effect on October 1.
August 12, 2013 •
Governor Dayton finally agrees to open up possible agenda to tax issues
Gov. Mark Dayton has been talking about a special session for about two weeks and it seems like that thought is now close to becoming a reality. Going against what he has been saying for those two weeks, Governor Dayton said he was open to expanding the agenda of the special session. Until Thursday, Dayton has been maintaining the special session be limited to providing relief to those areas of the state hit hard by severe storms in June.
Republicans have been asking for a repeal of the warehouse tax and both parties have wanted to fix a tax on repairs to farming equipment. On Thursday, Dayton called the farm equipment tax “the biggest mistake” of this past year’s session and it needed to be addressed in a special session. He still has no plans to address the warehouse tax, which will not go into effect until April 2014.
Dayton has maintained the Legislature can deal with the issue when it comes back to St. Paul in February. The date for the special session has been tentatively set for September 9. However, Dayton wants assurances from the Republicans the session will be limited to one day.
Even though Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, they need Republican support to suspend rules and limit the session to just one day. Without that support, the session could last a few days and could feature debate on any topic.
August 12, 2013 •
Rep. McCarthy steps away from House seat
Voters in Polk County will be heading to the polls this October to elect a new representative in the State House. State Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced he will resign his seat effective Thursday to accept a position in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced the special election to replace McCarthy will take place on October 22.
McCarthy, a Democrat, was first elected in November 2002 to lead House District 33 and during his time in office served four years as the House majority leader. Two Democrats have already thrown their hats into the ring to replace McCarthy; Joe Henry, an advocate for union workers, and Karl Schilling, a long-time member of Iowa Civil Rights Commission. More people are expected to enter the race before the parties hold their nominating conventions.
August 1, 2013 •
Hawaii and Iowa
Hawaii and Iowa will be seeing some changes in their campaign finance laws as a result of passed bills and court decisions.
In Iowa, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s law requiring groups making independent expenditures to disclose information about their spending, but struck down the part of the law requiring those same groups to file supplemental reports. Under the old law, if a group spent more than $750 on independent expenditures it would be required to file a report within 48 hours, and if the group spent more than $1,000 in expenditures it would be required to file a supplemental report on the 19th of January, May, July, and October. However, in Iowa Right to Life Committee, Inc. v. Tooker, the court held the supplemental reports to be “additional, redundant, and more burdensome.” Therefore, groups making independent expenditures are no longer required to file supplemental reports.
In Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed two bills into law. Senate Bill 31 changes the way noncandidate committees, corporations, and other associations active in elections disclose their political spending. In the past, those groups were required to file supplemental reports on January 31 and July 31 only in years following an election. Under the new law, which took effect immediately upon Abercrombie’s signature, the January 31 supplemental report must be filed every year. The bill also requires those groups, when filing the reports, to make a distinction between contributions made and contributions received.
Abercrombie also signed House Bill 1147 into law. This bill, which takes effect November 5, 2014, requires noncandidate committees making only independent expenditures to include, in a prominent location, the names of the top three contributors making the highest aggregate contributions to the noncandidate committee for the purpose of the advertisement. This requirement only applies to advertisements which are broadcasted, televised, circulated, or published, and are of a duration so as not to create a hardship to the committee. The bill also requires a noncandidate committee making an independent expenditure in the last two weeks before an election exceeding $500 to file a late expenditure report.
May 28, 2013 •
Legislators no longer allowed to lobby immediately after term is over
Last week the Maine State Legislature passed Legislative Document 184 and over the weekend Governor Paul LePage signed it into law. Legislative Document 184 requires legislators to wait one year after their term ends before engaging in activities that would require registration as a lobbyist or lobbyist associate.
Exempted from this prohibition are those former legislators who wish to engage in lobbying activities but do not receive compensation. If a legislator does engage in compensated lobbying activities during the restricted period, he or she is subject to a $1,000 civil penalty.
The law will not take effect until the start of the 127th Legislature, which will begin in December 2014.
May 22, 2013 •
Candidates can no longer accept unlimited contributions from individuals
Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill Monday further extending the state’s contribution limits to other elected offices. Senate Bill 5748 now sets contribution limits on candidates running for a seat on a public hospital district board of commissioners in a district with a population over 150,000.
No person, other than a bona fide political party or a caucus political committee, will be allowed to contribute more than $900 per election for those candidates. Each primary, general, and special election are considered a separate election for purposes of the contribution limits, so a person would be allowed to contribute $900 during the primary and another $900 during the general election.
Senator Pam Roach was the bill’s main sponsor and she said, “This is a victory for citizens who reside in public hospital districts…Recent commission races have seen large contributions from single sources that have over powered the campaigns. All elected positions in state, county, and local government have campaign finance limitations except for public hospital commissioners. There is no reason that candidates for public hospital district board of commissioners should not live under the same rules as other elected officials. This bill corrects that problem.”
The bill will take effect on July 28, 2013.
Photo of Gov. Jay Inslee courtesy of Thomas Sørenes on Wikipedia.
May 20, 2013 •
Lopez will not be able to influence the selection of his successor
Governor Andrew Cuomo has another opening in the State Assembly, but he is in no rush to call an election to fill it. Assemblyman Vito Lopez announced he will resign his seat in the State Assembly Monday afternoon, and Cuomo has decided not to call a special election to replace the disgraced politician.
Lopez is resigning amidst allegations of sexual harassing his former staffers during his tenure. He had already lost all committee assignments and legislative perks due to the scandal.
Cuomo is refusing to call a special election because, in a special election, the political parties get to choose their respective candidates.
With Lopez’s district being heavily Democratic, the Democratic Party would be able to choose the replacement. And with Lopez being the former head of the Democrats in Brooklyn and with his pals still in charge, Lopez would be able to handpick his successor. Cuomo would prefer to avoid that situation, so he’ll hold the election with the regular primary in September and general election in November. This will allow any Democrat to have the opportunity to get on the primary ballot.
As far as Lopez is concerned, he does not plan on riding into the political night. Even with the recent scandal, Lopez is still heavily considering running for a seat on the New York City Council this November.
Photo of the New York State House by Matt H. Wade on Wikipedia.
May 16, 2013 •
Election for 49th House District set for November 5
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the dates for a special election Wednesday, and Genesee County Clerk John Gleason is pleased with his choice. The special election for the 49th District House seat will take place on Election Day, November 5, with the primary, if needed, to be conducted on August 6.
Gleason had said he was hoping Snyder would save the county money and schedule the special election on the normal election days, but he was not sure it would actually happen. “I’m tickled about that. I’m so glad. [He] never contacted us, but it worked out all right. The most important thing is that they got it right. It’s good for the taxpayers.”
Gleason started the run of special elections for Genesee County when he left the 27th District Senate seat after winning the November election for county clerk. Jim Ananich won the special election for the vacant Senate seat in May, leaving his House seat open.
Two people have already announced their intentions to run for the seat. Kyle McCree, manager of Community Outreach for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, announced earlier this week he plans to run and Phil Phelps, former special advisor for Richard Hammel and former chief of staff for Pam Farris, has been campaigning since April.
May 8, 2013 •
New law increases disclosure in political advertising
Governor Jay Inslee has signed a bill into law increasing disclosure in political advertising. Senate Bill 5258 was passed by the Washington State Legislature and delivered to the governor on April 23.
The bill requires a series of political advertisements supporting or opposing ballot measures sponsored by the same political committee, each of which is under $1,000, to include information on the advertisement’s top five contributors once the cumulative value of the advertisements reaches $1,000. Under the current law, information on the top five contributors is only required for individual advertisements in excess of $1,000.
This law will take effect on July 28, 2013, but with the first state elections not due to take place until 2014, we will probably not see how big of an impact this new disclosure requirement will have.
May 7, 2013 •
Katz Group and Edmonton Oilers owner had been under fire for $430,000 bundled contribution
Elections Alberta and its Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim have spoken on the Daryl Katz contribution scandal and they believe there was no scandal at all. Daryl Katz, chairman and CEO of The Katz Group and the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, has been under fire recently after a contribution of $430,000 was delivered to the Alberta Progressive Conservative party from his company last year.
Under Alberta laws, a corporation or individual is only allowed to contribute $30,000 to a political party during a campaign period. However, Fjeldheim ruled the contribution to be legal because the corporation simply collected contributions from individual donors and gave a bundled contribution of $430,000. Seventeen members of the company all contributed no more than the maximum $30,000 to the entire contribution and every person reimbursed the corporation.
In his ruling, Fjeldheim said, “There was no breach [of the contribution laws] because there was clear identification of the funds connected with the actual contributors and each contribution respected the $30,000 limit. Without more, a single payment of $430,000 would have exceeded the limit for a single contribution. However, the investigation revealed that this was not a single contribution of $430,000.”
There is concern within the province this ruling is a sign of things to come and Canadian elections could become similar to the money-happy American way.
However, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she will not be looking to change the election laws. “What has been put in place is entirely appropriate.”
Not everyone agrees though. York University election financing expert Robert MacDermid said, “It would be simply a license to allow people to give money without disclosing the truth about it. When you have a system that doesn’t control disclosure adequately, when there are holes where people can give significant sums of money and not have to disclose their true identity…that absence of openness and disclosure really does make people question politicians.”
While the next Alberta election is not until 2016, this campaign finance issue is sure to be among the biggest at the time.
May 6, 2013 •
Campaign finance bill passes and awaits governor’s signature
The Hawaii State Legislature bid aloha Thursday as it adjourned for the year. In total, the Legislature introduced 2,872 bills and passed 293 of them. Those 293 passed bills will now head to Governor Neil Abercrombie’s desk for his signature.
Among the most important bills passed, was a campaign finance bill aimed at increasing transparency in the campaigning process. House Bill 1147 was passed Thursday night and is now headed to Governor Abercrombie’s desk. Under the bill, non-candidate committees only making independent expenditures will be required to list the names of the top three contributors on all advertisements broadcasted, televised, circulated, or published, which includes posting on the Internet. Originally, the bill required the top five contributors to be disclosed, but it was amended to only include the top three.
Still, Hawaii lawmakers were very pleased with the passage of this particular bill. Representative Chris Lee, the author of the bill, said, “All the political ads they see on TV that are sponsored by these loose organizations with no real background – these folks will have to disclose who the funders actually are so that people can actually go to the ballot box informed about what they’re about to vote on.”
Senate President Donna Mercado Kim added, “We should have transparency that people are free to go ahead and have their First Amendment, if it’s by way of donation and contributing, but we should be able to know who’s doing it.”
Governor Abercrombie has 45 days, excluding weekends and holidays, to sign the bill and if he does, the bill will become effective on November 5, 2014.
April 30, 2013 •
Gift and Source of Funding regulations targeted in proposed changes
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) unveiled proposed changes to the ethics rules Tuesday, which could make it easier for lobbyists to conceal their donors and funders from the public. At its monthly meeting, JCOPE proposed changes to the gift regulations and the recently enacted source of funding regulations.
Under the source of funding regulations, lobbyists must disclose the names of anybody who provided them with funding in excess of $5,000 for lobbying purposes, but only if they meet a certain threshold. The current rules allow for a waiver of this requirement only if there is a substantial likelihood of harm. Under the proposed change, JCOPE would lower the standard to a reasonable likelihood or probability of harm.
Executive Director Ellen Biben said the current standard may be unconstitutional, thus necessitating the change. “The substantial likelihood standard may be constitutionally too high,” Biben said. “We agree.”
In the proposed change to the gift ban, JCOPE puts a concrete dollar amount on the term “nominal value.” Under current law, a lobbyist is prohibited from giving a gift to a public official and gift is defined as something worth more than nominal value. However, there is no dollar figure attached to the current definition of nominal value.
Under the proposed definition, nominal value will be defined as an item or service with a value of $10 or less. Therefore, if the proposed change is enacted, lobbyists will be prohibited from giving a public official a gift with a value in excess of $10.
In order for the rules to go into effect, JCOPE commissioners must approve the proposals. There is no set time table on when the commissioners will review the proposals and make a decision on their enactment.
April 29, 2013 •
Sure winners provision upheld
The New York City Campaign Finance Board scored a decisive court victory when a court ruled in favor of the city’s campaign finance laws. United States District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain upheld the city’s provisions limiting the amount of public funds available to candidates who do not face meaningful competition.
This provision, dubbed the “sure winners” provisions by the Campaign Finance Board, was under attack in Ognibene v. Parkes, a suit filed in 2008. In a non-competitive race, the city is allowed to withhold public funds from a candidate. The candidate may appeal that decision, claiming they face a significant opposition based on a set of objective criteria.
Examples of the criteria used include the opponent’s endorsements and the media coverage of the opponent. The court did say that the city could not use the opponent’s financial activity as criteria for the appeals process, but overall it was a clear victory for the Campaign Finance Board.
Amy Loprest, executive director of the Campaign Finance Board, said “This victory allows the CFB to hold on to an important tool for maintaining public confidence in the city’s campaign finance program.”
Neither party has any intentions of appealing the District Court’s ruling, effectively ending the suit after nearly five years.
Photo of Manhattan courtesy of AngMoKio on Wikipedia.
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