Senate panel advances bill overhauling campaign finance laws – Washington Times

8 months ago Comments Off on Senate panel advances bill overhauling campaign finance laws – Washington Times

PHOENIX (AP) – Republican lawmakers are working with the Secretary of State’s Office to overhaul the state’s campaign finance system with a 54-page rewrite that critics say is too long and complicated to rush through the Legislature.

A Senate panel passed the measure Thursday. Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, described it an effort to simplify current law so that people don’t need to hire an attorney to understand Arizona’s campaign finance system.

“The attempt is to go from some legalese to maybe what some people might consider poetry,” Driggs said during the Judiciary Committee hearing, which he chairs.

State elections director Eric Spencer said he has spent the last 10 months working with interested parties and holding public meetings to craft the new system. Spencer described the bill as a housecleaning measure to re-organize laws that have piled on top of each other for the last decade.

The objective is to simplify and create uniformity among existing laws with a goal of balancing campaign finance disclosure with free expression, he said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1516 on a 4-3 vote Thursday. It now undergoes a standard review before going to a Senate vote.

The bill would repeal and replace the state’s current campaign finance system with more than 54 pages of laws. The proposal covers everything from political contributions and campaign-finance reports to disclosure requirements.

Opponents are concerned lawmakers haven’t had enough time to understand the possible impacts of the lengthy proposal.

“It’s a lot of public policy change in one bill, and I think it’s very difficult for anyone to discern how the various parts of it will affect each other and affect future elections,” said Sandy Bahr, who lobbies for the Sierra Club’s Arizona chapter.

One particular area of concern for Bahr was a provision that added disclosure exceptions for political action committees, she said.

Tom Collins, director of Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the bill would set up new limits for candidates receiving contributions that don’t account for inflation. He also expressed concerns about how the measure would interact with other sections of law.

Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, said that without the proper scrutiny, the bill could open too many loopholes. “I don’t think we’ve had enough time to analyze the intended and unintended consequences,” she said.

The measure doesn’t include criminal provisions originally listed in the campaign finance section of law. Spencer said he will instead include those provisions in a separate bill for clarity’s sake.

Senate panel advances bill overhauling campaign finance laws – Washington Times}