Clean Election Update by Julie Archer
April 4, 2006
Closer, But Still No Cigar
by WV Citizens Action Group’s Julie Archer
Unfortunately another legislative session has come and gone and we are still without a public financing system in West Virginia. That’s the bad news. The good news is we edged our way closer to passing Clean Elections than in any previous session.
SB 124, the WV Public Campaign Financing Act, was voted out of Senate Judiciary, and for the first time, Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick allowed a discussion on the measure. The bill was on the committee’s agenda so members could hear testimony from Todd Lang, Executive Director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission in Arizona, one of the nation’s pioneering Clean Elections states.
Although the committee listened to Lang, there was no discussion of our legislation, which in many ways mirrors Arizona’s law. SB 124 was not put to a vote. We believe we had the votes, and even Senator Helmick acknowledged that Todd’s presentation “may have answered many critics’ questions.” When it became clear no vote would be allowed, most of the people in the audience for this committee meeting stood up and walked out. Hopefully the committee took notice of the dramtic exit!
Helmick told the Associated Press, “I think next year is the year that campaign finance will be looked at very strongly.”
Helmick is now on record saying that campaign finance reform will be given serious consideration in 2007, and we need to hold him to it.
In addition to the progress made on Clean Elections, another bill, SB 285--providing a one-time allotment of a million dollars to jump-start the Clean Elections fund from the sale of unclaimed property--passed the Senate and came very close to passage in the House. We even had a victory in the House Judiciary Committee when an amendment to strip the bill of this provision failed on an 8 to 15 vote. As funding has proven to be a major stumbling block for advancing Clean Elections, SB 285 would have at least partially addressed that issue in advance of next year’s session. Unfortunately, lobbyists for the retailers and credit card companies, who opposed a provision in the bill dealing with gift cards, where able to get House leadership to pull the bill and place it on the “inactive” calendar on the session’s last day.
Thanks again for your calls, e-mails and letters of support to legislators. We’re also pleased that so many of you attended the meeting of the Senate Finance Committee when Todd Lang spoke. Thanks again to the Reform Institute in Alexandria, VA for sponsoring Todd’s visit. Thanks to all the groups who sent out action alerts — including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local Council 77, the Legislative Action Team on Children and Families, the Monongalia County League of Women Voters, National Association of Social Workers-WV, WV Environmental Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, WV Democracy for America, and anyone I may have inadvertently forgotten or been unaware of. And last but not least, thanks to all of our legislative sponsors and supporters for their continued willingness to champion this progressive reform aimed at changing the status quo.