SJR 393

Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance Reform

August 30, 2001, Norfolk

Work Session

The joint subcommittee discussed and agreed to a proposal that the chairman write to state law schools to solicit a review of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act (CFDA) as a student project. The Secretary of the State Board of Elections explained that the act has proven confusing, needs clarification, and could be improved. The board's staff receives questions on the interpretation of the act that are difficult or impossible to answer because of ambiguities and inconsistencies in the act. The proposal contemplates a fresh review for clarity rather than an examination of potential campaign finance reforms. State Board and subcommittee staff would assist in the project. Members also noted the need for a more detailed instruction book for persons required to file reports under the act.

The State Board of Elections presented a revised list of requested revisions and clarifications in the CFDA for the subcommittee's consideration.

The subcommittee reviewed a number of items brought forward at its June 27 meeting:

  • Mandatory electronic filing for General Assembly candidates. The State Board reported that 100-plus General Assembly candidates are filing electronically for the November 2001 election. The board now has three full-time employees for campaign finance work. It has a contract for $22,000 for the rest of the year to meet its obligation, effective January 1, 2001, to key in data filed in paper format. Its staff cannot keep up with the work involved in filing, reviewing, and copying disclosure forms and needs an additional full-time employee in this area. It has not had time to track the staff time required for the keying in and copying of paper-copy General Assembly disclosure forms. The subcommittee noted that electronic filing produces cost savings and that the delay in entering data from paper disclosure forms may disadvantage candidates who file electronically. It also discussed the suggestion that the filing forms could be simplified. Suit has been filed by an independent statewide office candidate challenging the requirement that disclosure forms in statewide elections be filed electronically.
  • Applicability of CFDA to towns. Prior to the 2000 Census, only town elections in Blacksburg were subject to the act. Under the 2000 Census, Blacksburg and Leesburg fall within the 25,000 and more population class. The subcommittee asked for a breakdown showing all towns of 1,000 or more population under the 2000 Census.
  • Filings by PACs under CFDA. The subcommittee requested a draft to simplify the PAC filing schedule and for information on active versus inactive PACs to evaluate possible electronic filing requirements with a certain threshold of activity.
  • Issue advocacy and the definition of "political committee." The subcommittee requested a draft to clarify that the CFDA does not apply to pure issue advocacy groups.

Public Hearing

Representatives of the American Association of University Women and League of Women Voters spoke in support of campaign contribution limits, random audits of a percentage of candidate campaign reports, prompt reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures, and an election day holiday.

The Honorable S. Chris Jones, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Mary Spain


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