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Study Committee Meets to Discuss Further Campaign Finance Reform

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday the Study Committee on Campaign Finance Reform met to further discuss modifications to the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act of 1988 and the amendments that have been placed on it recently.

Act number 2012-358, sponsored by Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Birmingham), creates a committee on campaign finance reform. The act says that the study committee “shall study all aspects of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, particularly as it relates to the enforcement of the act.”

Members include: Governor Bentley, designees from Secretary of State, the Attorney General, three members of of the Senate, three members of tha House of Representatives, a representative of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, a representative of the District Attorneys Association, the District Attorney of the 15th Judicial Circuit, and a representative of the Alabama Bar Association.

Committee Chairman Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) conducted the meeting in which three subcommittees reported back to the main body. Taylor said that the committee members decided to break out into three subcommittees because they felt that three areas of the act need to be reformed.

The first is the Subcommittee on Contributions and Expenditures whose function is finding issues in the law relating to the making of contributions and expenditures to insure accountability and transparency. They are also charged with clarifying existing law. They are concentrating in areas such as: Defining debt, what qualifies as a contribution and rules regarding corporate versus PAC contributions. The biggest area of concern are expenditures from campaign accounts.

The second is the Reporting Subcommittee are focused on the particulars including the practices and procedures of candidate reporting such as the timelines and deadlines. This committee is in current negotiations with a company to design a web-based reporting system modeled after states such as Colorado in an effort to do away with the antiquated paper trail in use currently. This system would allow each candidate to, as one committee member called it, have a “Quickbooks” for campaign reporting replete with a notification system that will notify a candidate of upcoming report deadlines as well as reports past due.

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The third is the Monitoring and Enforcement Subcommittee which Alabama does not have currently. This committee consists of members of the judicial branch who are tasked with identifying procedure setting parameters and consequences of non-compliance.

“Our task here is to clean up the campaign code, make sure it is easy to understand and easy to apply, that compliance is practical, that everybody knows the rules and that we make the system more accountable and transparent than it is today with the end goal of making sure that the public always has the information at their fingertips to know who is behind a certain candidate for office.”

The committee will reconvene on November 15 at 1:30 p.m.

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