This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

February 23, 2004

Senate committee endorses public election bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Candidates for state offices could apply for public financing under a proposal endorsed Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee voted 10-4 to endorse the proposal (SB270), which would allow candidates who agree to raise no private money and spend none of their own to receive cash from a public fund.

"The goal is to increase public trust by taking special interest money out of the process and letting candidates spend more time on issues and less on fund-raising,'' said Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.

Arizona, Maine, Vermont and North Carolina have some form of public election funding.

Under the West Virginia bill, candidates would need a number of $20 contributions to qualify for state funding. The number would depend upon the office sought.

The fund would raise money through a voluntary checkoff on state income tax returns, as well as through contributions and civil penalties. No tax dollars would be used.

Backers said successful public funding models in other states have had a dedicated revenue source, usually taxes.

One opponent, Sen. Russ Weeks, noted that he and other Republican lawmakers won their seats in 2002 while being significantly outspent.

"It's not about money, it's about working hard,'' said Weeks, R-Raleigh.

The Senate Finance Committee must also endorse the bill, and supporters predicted it would likely fail there.

In other action, judiciary members defeated on a divided voice vote a bill (SB478) to allow adult motorcycle riders to ride without helmets. Similar bills have failed to pass the Senate for several years.

Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246