Gov. Peter Shumlin quietly signed the controversial campaign finance bill, S.82, into law on Jan. 23 (it was the first bill of the session that he has enacted), but it turns out lawmakers will get another bite at the apple.
There was a drafting error -- the effective dates were incorrect -- and so House Government Operations must address the problem with Act 90 in H.640, a technical corrections bill that will be up for action in the coming days. The bill, however, has not yet been voted out of committee.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, wants to use this opportunity to propose an amendment that would reinstate lower donation and contribution limits in line with the original bills passed by the House and Senate.
S.82 significantly increases the limits for donations to candidates and parties and sets a new, higher cap on aggregate limits for single source donations to candidates and political action committees. Under current law, the maximum donation from a single source to a candidate is $2,000; under S.82, it would be $4,000 for statewide candidates in a two-year election cycle. The cap for parties is $2,000 now; it would be $10,000 under the new law.
Political parties will be able to receive as much as $60,000 in an election cycle from a national party, and $10,000 from a single source or a PAC. The current limit is $2,000.
The aggregate limit for single source donations is set at $40,000.
The bill reduces the amount House and Senate candidates can raise.
Her amendment would increase the maximum amounts candidates could receive from parties ($5,000 for reps; $8,000 for senators; and $90,000 for statewide candidates) and lowers the amounts parties could accept to $4,000 from a single source. Parties could receive $40,000 from national parties.
In an email, Browning says the Democratic leadership may try to find another way to fix the effective date error so that she doesn't have an opportunity to offer her proposal.
If it is brought to the floor, Browning expects her amendment to be ruled non-germane, but she said in an email, "I would like the Legislature to take one more look at what they did, after the blowback following final passage."