Update on Campaign Finance Reform (post 7/8 meeting)

This legislation appears to be moving forward! 

The Need

The document clearly states the need for reform, citing the undue influence of large contributions on our democratic processes, and “the specter of quid pro quo corruption, even more so when the contributor is involved in government contracts.” 

The Issues Considered

The list of issues still to be resolved before this legislation moves to a vote of the full legislature continues to shrink.   The lawyers have weighed in where necessary, and tentative agreement has been reached by the subcommittee on the vast majority of specifics, including:

  • Candidate pathways to qualification for public financing;
  • The amount of public funds to be made available to candidates and the ratio at which they will be distributed;
  • Campaign contribution limits; and
  • The amount to be appropriated to and maintained in the campaign finance fund.

Among the remaining unresolved issues is a question about responsibility for oversight, but as options have been clarified and evaluated, the subcommittee is moving closer to a resolution. 

What Comes Next

The legislative subcommittee members (Jonathan Heppner, Hector Rodriguez and Ken Ronk) are preparing a pre-draft document for Tracey Bartels, Chair of the Legislature. Tracey will attend the next meeting (date yet to be determined) prepared to share any questions, issues or comments she might have. 

Barring (unanticipated) major revisions, the document will then be filed with the clerk and copies made available to all the legislators.  The caucuses will discuss, amendments (if any) will be considered, a public hearing scheduled and— a vote taken!

What You Can Do

Following the next meeting of the subcommittee, I will post another update. By that time, we should know with more certainty what the proposed legislation will look like.

If it is diluted beyond the point where it seems likely to accomplish what we are hoping for, real Comprehensive Finance Reform that effectively limits the intrusion of big money into our local and county-wide elections and makes it possible for those with limited resources to wage competitive campaigns, we will have a chance to lobby our legislators and make our preferences known.

The official public hearing (date to be determined) will be scheduled, at which you will all be allowed to speak.

In the meantime, you can attend either the July 16th or the August 20 regular legislative session (7PM in the Legislative Chambers on the 6th floor of the County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston, NY) and add your voice to their deliberations. (If you want to speak, you should plan to show up a little before 7 to sign up.)

The Prize!

The legislature’s passage of this local law (and the signature of the County Executive) means that Ulster County could  have real comprehensive campaign finance reform for local and state-wide races before the end of the year. 

Let’s make sure that happens!  

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