REFORM BILL PASSES
I never thought I'd see that day...
From The Hartford Courant
The state legislature approved what advocates billed as the most sweeping reforms of campaign finance laws in the country early Thursday, including restrictions on campaign contributions and a new publicly funded election system.The people of Connecticut have been begging for for this bill for as long as I can recall. Personally, I don't think it goes far enough as I like to see an end to special interest groups and lobbyists buying off lawmakers (Ernest Newtown rings a bell).
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell promised to sign the bill into law.
But that doesn't mean the end to the campaign finance reform debate in Connecticut. After much discussion about loopholes in the legislation, lawmakers promised to return during the regular session in February to make further changes.
"Frankly, the stars are aligned with this legislation," said Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. "It's our opportunity to take advantage of this moment, to pass this legislation, to build a foundation and then make changes."
The changes take effect on Dec. 31, 2006, after the next gubernatorial and legislative races.
Both the Senate and the House debated the bill for about seven hours in separate sessions. The bill passed the Senate 27-8 and the House 82-65. The House vote came after several amendments were defeated.
Advocates of the legislation called it a model for the nation, banning contributions from lobbyists and state contractors, ending campaign advertisement booklets and creating a voluntary, public financing system that affects all state races. But many Republicans argued the bill would not reduce the influence of special interests.
"This bill before us ... does things that no other state in this union has done," said Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
Rell called the bill "truly historic" and said she was looking forward to signing it. She had been pushing lawmakers to pass a bill after they failed to reach a deal during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
"The people of Connecticut want these reforms. They want to remove the corrosive, corrupting influence of special interest money in our elections, and we can finally reward them with this landmark legislation," Rell said.
But many Republican legislators claimed the legislation was a sham and could lead to even more special interest influence on Connecticut's elections. They pointed to provisions that allow legislative leaders, state parties and unions to foot the bill for candidates' in-kind services, including polling and consultants.Whatever the case, something is better than nothing and I'm just happy that something passed. As always Genghis over at CT Local Politics has been on top of this issue and brings up some great points in his post and is worth a read.
Others claimed the public financing system can be manipulated by candidates, and the money would be doled out with few restrictions. Many Republicans are particularly angry about using public funds to pay for political campaigns.
Even some Democrats criticized the bill. Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, who voted for it, said the legislation stifled free speech rights of lobbyists and predicted a court challenge. And in the House, a Democrat-proposed amendment that would have stripped the public financing provision died on a 79-66 vote.
UPDATE: The Connecticut story is gaining naitonal attention and dominates the blogs. Guess blogger Nick Nyhart of the very popular TPMCafe.com picks up on the story.