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Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bill allowing bigger contributions one vote from Sebelius’ desk

May 10, 2006

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— A compromise bill that ties new campaign disclosure requirements to looser contribution limits for legislative candidates needs only Senate approval to go to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The House approved the measure Tuesday night on a 75-45 vote, though some members complained because the provision allowing larger donations had not previously been debated in either chamber.

While supporters acknowledged their legislative stew contained some unappetizing ingredients, they said the resulting dish was good enough to justify voting "yes."

"I don't know if I need to beg, plead or preach," said Rep. Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, chairman of the Governmental Organization and Elections Committee. "There are a lot of valid parts to this bill."

Senate and House negotiators drafted the measure, combining numerous bills. Some had only passed the Senate and two hadn't passed either chamber.

Speaker Doug Mays acknowledged he blocked consideration this year in the House on ethics, elections and campaign finance bills. In recent years, House debates on those subjects have turned into legislative free-for-alls, resulting in bills doomed to die.

"I held up a number of bills in committee, hoping we could put something together, and now we have," said Mays, R-Topeka.

One key change in the package involved candidates' reporting of contributions within 11 days of an election, which now are not reported until months after an election.

During that period, candidates would be required to report contributions of $350 or more the day after receiving them, and political action committees would have to report expenditures of $1,000 or more. PACs and state candidates would file reports with the secretary of state's office, and local candidates would file with their county election offices.

Meanwhile, Senate candidates could accept $1,500 per donor, instead of $1,000, and House candidates could accept $750 instead of $500.

"In the era of Jack Abramoff, we are increasing the amount of money lobbyists can give us in our campaigns - without a hearing, without a committee debate," said Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, mentioning the disgraced Washington lobbyist.

Other House members said the increase in contributions wasn't a major change because candidates publicly disclose their donors. Furthermore, they said accepting the change was worth getting other provisions.

The measure also attempted to give voters more information from people making phone calls urging a position on a candidate, allowed most counties to set up satellite offices to take advance ballots, and made changes in election laws designed to bring Kansas into compliance with federal election laws.

"I accept this as a good-faith compromise," said Rep. Ed O'Malley, R-Overland Park.

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