This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

February 18, 2005

Public campaign financing pilot project goes to House

By Tom Searls
Staff writer

In a close vote that followed hours of debate, a House of Delegates committee recommended passage of a pilot project allowing public financing for up to five legislative races.

The Clean Campaign Act (HB2486) was hotly debated by the House Judiciary Committee before finally passing on a 12-10 vote. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

It allows for up to two single-member Senate seats and three single-member House districts to receive public money to run their campaigns. First, candidates must raise seed money, agree to not accept other private contributions, not to use their own personal funds and not to spend more than they get from the fund.

Candidates for state Senate, except in Kanawha County, would receive $20,000 for their campaign expenses. Senate candidates from Kanawha County, the state’s largest, would get $35,000.

In the House races, candidates would receive $7,500 to spend on their campaigns.

To qualify, candidates must first raise “seed” money from the public, which must be no more than a single $5 contribution. For Kanawha County Senate seats, candidates would have to receive those donations from 350 people, while candidates in other Senate districts would need 250 donations. To qualify for a publicly financed House campaign, a person would need 75 donators.

The House had a light floor schedule Thursday, with the leadership deciding to table a resolution that would order members to continue debate and vote on legislation that cannot be called up, or seen, on their computer screens. Last year, the House adjourned for one day after its computer system went down.

Majority Leader Rick Staton, D-Wyoming, said leadership decided to table the bill to prevent a floor fight over something unnecessary. Current House rules say members must vote on bills if they do not have a paper copy.

House Republicans and labor Democrats had combined to form an opposing group possibly large enough to defeat the resolution.

Prior to the floor session, Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, distributed a seven-page paper to members contending that Democrats have better national governing plans than Republicans.

Morgan ended up with a pile of the papers on his desk after all but one House GOP member returned them to him. Delegate Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, said she had already taken her copy from the chamber.

To contact staff writer Tom Searls, use e-mail or 348-5192.

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