CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to extend a state Supreme Court public campaign-financing project advanced to the full Senate Tuesday (SB413) - but would only apply to the 2016 election cycle.The current public financing pilot project -- which led to the election of Justice Allen Loughry last fall -- will expire this June 30.As drafted, the bill would make the public campaign financing option permanent, but the Senate Judiciary Committee opted to extend it only to the next Supreme Court election, given funding issues.Currently, the pilot project has been funded by transferring $1 million a year from the state Purchasing Card Administration Fund. However, the auditor's office has indicated that, because of budget cuts, that amount will have to be cut to $400,000.
The bill also removes a matching fund provision, which the state Supreme Court ruled last year violates the First Amendment rights of candidates who are privately funding their campaigns.Instead, the bill would provide qualifying candidates with a lump sum of $300,000 for contested primary elections, and $525,000 for general elections."Somebody could easily get outspent if they depend on this," Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said of the lump-sum provision, with no mechanism to match big-spending challengers.Also Tuesday, the Senate:* Passed 33-0 and sent to the House the governor's bill for jobs impact statements for proposed legislation (SB187). Under the bill, either the governor, speaker of the House, or Senate president could request that the state Development Office evaluate the potential of various bills to create or eliminate jobs in the state.Some environmental advocates have opposed the bill, believing the job impact studies could be used as grounds to oppose environmental regulations.* Passed 33-0 and sent to the House the Complete Streets Act (SB187). Under the bill, Transportation officials would have to incorporate needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and users of public transportation when designing road projects on city or county routes.Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com