Bills would make elections more accountable

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From the Senate

By Sen. Gary Tapp

FRANKFORT – Last week, as the 2009 Session resumed, we passed or moved along bills aimed at holding your government and electoral processes visible and publically accountable, from campaigns to officeholders to lobbyists.

Senate Bill 62, which we passed this week, calls for more frequent reporting of campaign contributions and also directs that these reports be filed electronically in races for state office.

This will allow the reports to be posted to the internet more quickly and with more accuracy.  Citizens will then be able to see where the financial support of their political candidates comes from when weighing their voting options.

We also passed Senate Bill 53 this week.  This key piece of legislation will regulate the independent, tax-exempt groups popularly referred to as “527 committees” by requiring them to report their contribution activities when the organization in question becomes involved in state-regulated campaigns.

These groups can potentially raise massive amounts of campaign cash and spend the funds on issue ads.

Too many times during election season, we see ads praising or condemning a candidate or ballot measure — sometimes with millions being spent — but we don’t know until after the election who is paying for the ads or what their motives might be.

Free speech through campaign contributions is important and should be protected but transparency of the process is always beneficial.

Finally, Senate Bill 2 was passed the Senate floor this week.  It would cast light on any business relationships between lobbyists and elected officials.   The bill would prohibit state contractors from donating more than $500 to any candidate for office while also extending the time-limit ban on retired public officials taking jobs with an industry they used to regulate.

Currently, they must wait six months; SB 2 would extend that period to two years.  A third provision of the bill includes business associates among the people who cannot benefit from a public official’s actions.

Ethical government and ethical elections are crucial to the success of self-government, and legislation to promote those core American values is as important as anything we do in Frankfort.

I would also like to add that Kentucky, as the home of two military bases, is rightfully proud of our servicemen and women.

A few years ago, we created the military family assistance trust fund to help the families left behind when moms and dads were called to the war on terror. This week, we augmented the program with Senate Bill 37 which will help provide for the educational needs of veterans who have lost limbs if they received the injury while on active duty.  We respect the service of these veterans and honor them.

We still have a couple more weeks of session.  The state has a toll-free number, 1-800-372-7181, which you can call with any questions or comments.