Campaign finance reporting bill moves to House

The state Senate passed legislation today that supporters said would bring additional transparency, accountability and integrity to Kentucky’s electoral process.

Known as Senate Bill 4, the measure passed by a 34-2 vote. It would require mandatory electronic filing of all candidates’ campaign finance reports by the May 2020 primaries, a process often referred to as e-filing. Currently, the only candidates that have to e-file are those who are running for statewide constitutional offices. Those offices are for governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor of public accounts, attorney general, secretary of state and commissioner of agriculture.

“Here we are 19 years into the 21st century,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. “It is time we use the technology available to update our reporting mechanism so the public can see where candidates raise money and how they spend it.”

He said SB 4 is aligned with the legislative intent of a $1.8 million appropriation to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance to replace its two-decade-old e-filing software. Thayer said the new software would allow for real-time filing via an application on smartphones and other devices. 

Thayer, who sponsored SB 4, said the need for the law was illustrated during the last general election. That was when only 106 of the 1,559 candidates running for various offices across Kentucky e-filed.

Thayer added that the deluge of paper filings overwhelmed the registry’s 12 employees. He said that caused delays in the information being entered into the registry’s public database. As the paperwork piled up, Thayer said it went unnoticed that some candidates were not even filing the required finance reports.

In voting against SB 4, Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, expressed concern that candidates in rural mountainous areas of Kentucky do not always have access to dependable internet and mobile phone service necessary for e-filing.

Thayer said he has tried to eliminate Webb’s concerns through a provision in SB 4 that would allow candidates to manually enter the information into computers at the registry’s office. The information could also be provided on an electronic-storage device such as a thumb drive.

Thayer added that SB 4 contains an exemption for candidates who raise less than $3,000.

 SB 4 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

Source: LRC Public Information