Connecticut legislators will hold a public hearing today on proposed changes to the state’s campaign finance law.
The current law which provides public financing for campaigns for state offices was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge in August. The Citizens’ Election Program is still active while the state awaits a federal appeals court ruling.
Lawmakers will hear testimony on two bills. One of the bills would implement changes based on recommendations by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The other would implement changes drafted by the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
The governor’s recommendations would repeal provisions in the statute that require minor parties to have received a percentage of the total vote cast for that office in the last election. It would also repeal provisions that require petitioning party candidates to collect signatures representing a percentage of the total vote cast in the last election for that office.
It would repeal smaller grants for minor party and petitioning party candidates who fail to meet the above qualifications. This would ensure that those candidates receive the same size grants as major party candidates.
The bill would also reduce grant amounts for specific offices in response to U. S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill’s concern that the sums amounted to a “windfall” for many candidates.
The bill proposed by the Government Administration and Elections Committee does not repeal burdens on third parties but does lower them. The committee’s bill would also increase the amount of qualifying contributions to participate in the program.
Grants for candidates who run unopposed have been removed as well. Grants to all candidates, except those running for governor, have also been lowered.
The committee’s bill has a number of sections which will become active immediately if the federal appeals court upholds Judge Underhill’s decision holding that the current law is unconstitutional. Thus ensuring that public financing does not disappear while candidates are campaigning this year.
Rep. James Spallone, co-chairman of the General Administration and Elections Committee, has said that in an ideal world the legislature would wait until the Appeals Court makes a decision, however, it may not have a lot of time.
There’s a provision in the current law that triggers a repeal of the law within seven days of a court decision.
Spallone said the committee will be acting as quickly as possible to get a bill to the floor of the House.