PA 06-137—sSB 66

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Judiciary Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM LEGISLATION AND CERTAIN ELECTION LAW AND ETHICS PROVISIONS

SUMMARY: This act changes state election laws addressing campaign finance, lobbyists, and voting. It also makes changes to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials.

With respect to campaign finance reform, the act revises certain provisions in PA 05-5, October 25 Special Session, which, among other things, established the Citizens' Election Program to publicly finance election campaigns for candidates for statewide and legislative office. The act restricts the circumstances under which PA 05-5 would become unenforceable.

It changes the Citizens' Election Program affecting minor and petitioning party candidates by (1) providing supplemental grants to minor and petitioning party candidates who qualify and (2) allowing those who receive a grant of less than the amount authorized for a major party candidate running for the same office in the general election to collect contributions in addition to qualifying contributions.

The act prohibits legislative caucus, legislative leadership, and party committees from making certain types of organization expenditures to benefit the primary campaigns of legislative candidates. For general elections, it places limits on organization expenditures made to benefit the same candidates.

The act tightens the revolving door law applicable to former governors. For the governor's spouse, it bans honoraria in exchange for participation at an event when the spouse is acting in his official capacity.

For lobbyists, the act expands the exception to the ban on contributions and solicitations and repeals the provision requiring them to file annual statements with the secretary of the state.

The act limits the recipients who are eligible to receive surplus funds from a nonparticipating candidate when his committee dissolves, and changes how payments to participating candidates resulting from excess expenditures are processed.

It gives the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) two additional years to complete two studies and submit proposed legislation to the Government Administration and Elections Committee.

The act eliminates a requirement for (1) felons to prove that they have been released from prison and completed any parole before their voting rights can be restored and (2) town clerks to train election officials. It also requires registrars to either certify that polling places are accessible to people with disabilities or apply for a waiver from accessibility requirements.

The act changes the process for filling Congressional and multi-town probate judge vacancies and makes minor changes to laws regarding candidates for state and district office, permissible campaign expenditures, and justices of the peace.

Finally, the act makes minor and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage except changes affecting (1) polling place accessibility, petitions, and endorsed candidates are effective January 1, 2007; (2) lobbyists are effective October 1, 2007; and (3) most Citizens' Election Program provisions are effective December 31, 2006 and applicable to elections held on or after that date. The provisions changing the Citizens' Election Program's severability and method for processing excess expenditures are effective upon passage.

CITIZENS' ELECTION PROGRAM ( 16 – 23, 29)

Severability ( 17)

The act restricts the circumstances under which PA 05-5, October 25 Special Session, becomes unenforceable. PA 05-5 established the Citizens' Election Program to publicly finance election campaigns, changed contribution limits, and banned contributions from certain contractors and lobbyists, among other things.

Under prior law, the entire act became inoperative if a court prohibited or limited the expenditure of funds from the Citizens' Election Fund (CEF) for 72 hours or more.

Under the act, if a court prohibits or limits expenditures from the fund for 168 hours (one week) or more on or after April 15th of a general election year, or on or after the 45th day before a special election scheduled to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly, (1) the Citizens' Election Program becomes inoperative with respect to any race subject to the court order until December 31st of that year and (2) the remainder of PA 05-5 becomes inoperative until December 31st of that year. In that case, the laws in effect prior to PA 05-5 become effective until December 31st of that year.

If the court order is still in effect on April 15th of the second year following the prohibition or limitation, PA 05-5 becomes permanently inoperative and the laws in effect prior to its passage become effective.

If a court prohibits or limits expenditures, candidates who receive money from the fund prior to the order may continue to spend that money under the rules of the Citizens' Election Program, unless the court prohibits them from doing so.

Minor and Petitioning Party Candidates ( 19 & 20)

The act (1) establishes supplemental grants for minor and petitioning party candidates who qualify, and (2) allows them to collect additional contributions under certain circumstances.

Supplemental Grants. Under the act, the qualified candidate committee of an eligible minor or petitioning party candidate for statewide or legislative office may receive a supplemental grant if (1) he receives less than a “full grant” (the amount authorized for a major party candidate running for the same office) for the general election, (2) his treasurer reports a deficit in the first campaign finance statement he files after the election, and (3) he receives a greater percentage of the votes cast for all candidates for that office than the percentage of votes or signatures he used to qualify for the grant.

When an eligible minor or petitioning party candidate receives more than 10% but not more than 15% of the votes cast for all candidates, the grant amount is the product of:

1. a fraction in which (a) the numerator is the difference between (1) the percentage of the number of votes the candidate receives and (2) 10%, and (b) the denominator is 10; and

2. two-thirds the amount of the general election grant for major party candidates running for the same office.

When an eligible minor or petitioning party candidate receives more than 15% but less than 20% of the votes cast for all candidates, the grant amount is the product of:

1. a fraction in which (a) the numerator is the difference between (i) the percentage of the number of votes the candidate receives and (ii) 15%, and (b) the denominator is five; and

2. one-third the amount of the general election grant for major party candidates running for the same office.

The act prohibits the sum of a candidate's general election grant and supplemental grant from exceeding the amount of the general election grant for a major party candidate running for the same office.

Additional Contributions. The act allows a minor or petitioning party candidate who receives a grant from the CEF equal to one-third or two-thirds of the full grant (i. e. , one-third grant or two-thirds grant) to continue to raise contributions in addition to the qualifying contributions, subject to the same limitations and restrictions that exist for participating candidates running for the same office. The minor or petitioning party candidate may use the additional contributions to make up the difference between the full grant and the partial grant he received.

For example, a minor or petitioning party candidate for state senator who receives a one-third grant of $28,333 may collect additional contributions up to $56,667, the difference between the full grant of $85,000 and the grant he received. If he receives a two-thirds grant of $56,667, he may collect additional contributions up to $28,333.

The act specifies that minor and petitioning party candidates must limit their expenditures to the sum of their (1) qualifying contributions; (2) allowable personal funds, if any; (3) general election grant; and (4) permissible additional contributions.

Organization Expenditures ( 16 & 18)

Under prior law, an organization expenditure was not considered a campaign finance expenditure or contribution, and its use was not restricted to lawful committee purposes or subject to filing requirements. Thus, committees could make unlimited organization expenditures.

Limits for Legislative Candidates. For general election campaigns, the act places limits on organization expenditures made to benefit legislative candidates who participate in the program (“participating candidates”), thus subjecting them to campaign finance reporting requirements. For primary campaigns, it (1) bans organization expenditures for the preparation, display, mailing, or other distribution of a party candidate listing made to benefit participating legislative candidates but (2) continues to allow unlimited organization expenditures for other permissible purposes. By law, organization expenditures are expenditures made by legislative caucus, legislative leadership, or party committees for the benefit of candidates or their committees.

Under the act, the maximum amount that a committee can spend on organization expenditures made to benefit the general election campaign of a participating candidate for state senator is $10,000. For a participating candidate for state representative, the maximum amount is $3,500.

A “party candidate listing” is any communication that (1) lists the names of one or more candidates; (2) is distributed through public advertising including broadcast stations, cable television, newspapers or similar media, direct mail, telephone, electronic mail, public Internet sites, or personal delivery; and (3) treats all candidates in a substantially similar way. The content must be limited to (1) the identification of each candidate, including photographs; (2) the offices sought; (3) the offices the candidates currently hold, if any; (4) the party and a brief statement about the party or the candidates' positions, philosophy, goals, accomplishments, or biographies; (5) an encouragement to vote for the candidates; and (6) information about voting, such as voting hours and locations.

Reporting. The act requires the campaign treasurer of a legislative caucus, legislative leadership, or party committee that makes an organization expenditure to benefit a participating legislative candidate to notify that candidate's committee of the expenditure when he files a campaign finance statement containing an itemized accounting of the committee's organization expenditures, if any.

The act requires the campaign treasurer for a participating legislative candidate who benefits from such an expenditure to file a statement with the SEEC listing (1) the committee that made the expenditure, (2) the amount, and (3) its purpose. He must file the statement on or before the day the candidate committee dissolves. The provision applies only to organization expenditures about which the candidate committee is aware.

Affidavit Certifying Intent to Participate ( 21)

For candidates in a primary, the act establishes a deadline of 4 p. m. on the 25th day preceding the primary to file an affidavit certifying whether they will participate in the Citizens' Election Program. For candidates who do not run in a primary, the deadline remains 4 p. m. on the 40th day preceding the general election.

Primary Grant Applications ( 22)

When a candidate applied for a primary grant from the CEF under prior law, the SEEC was required to determine whether, among other things, the candidate was opposed by at least one (1) participating candidate in the primary from the same party who received the required qualifying contributions, or (2) nonparticipating candidate in the primary from the same party who received contributions equal to the amount of the required qualifying contributions.

The act eliminates the requirement that the SEEC make this determination, thus allowing a candidate to apply for a primary grant regardless of whether either condition is met.

The law, unchanged by the act, allows a participating major party candidate to apply for a primary grant only if a primary election is required. Minor party candidates are not eligible for a primary grant from the CEF.

Excess Expenditures ( 23 & 29)

Threshold. By law, participating candidates are entitled to additional money from the CEF if their opponents exceed certain spending limits. Under prior law, that happened when a (1) nonparticipating opponent exceeded the amount of the major party grant authorized for that office for the primary or general election (“applicable grant”) or (2) participating opponent exceeded the sum of the required qualifying contributions and applicable grant. For example, a nonparticipating candidate for state representative made an excess expenditure during a general election if he spent or obligated to spend an amount exceeding $25,000, or the applicable grant. A participating candidate for state representative made an excess expenditure if he spent or obligated to spend an amount exceeding $30,000, or the applicable grant plus qualifying contributions.

The act increases the threshold nonparticipating and participating candidates may reach before they are considered to have made an excess expenditure, and makes them equal. Under the act, “excess expenditure” means an expenditure made or obligated to be made by a nonparticipating or participating candidate who is opposed by at least one participating candidate in a primary or general election that exceeds the applicable spending limit for the participating candidate. For example, both nonparticipating and participating candidates for state representative make an excess expenditure during a general election if they spend or obligate to spend an amount exceeding $40,000, or the applicable spending limit.

Campaign Treasurers. The act makes campaign treasurers, rather than candidates, responsible for filing supplemental campaign finance reports with the SEEC for purposes of the Citizens' Election Program, as they are for other filing requirements.

Processing Payments. The act changes the administrative procedure for processing payments to candidates whose opponents make excess expenditures.

For nonparticipating candidates, prior law required the SEEC to notify the state comptroller when it determined that such a candidate made or became obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 90% of the applicable grant. The comptroller had two business days to provide each opposing participating candidate with an amount equal to 25% of the applicable grant, provided the participating candidate had not spent more than the sum of (1) the amount of his qualifying contributions and (2) 100% of the applicable grant. The campaign treasurer held the additional money in escrow until the SEEC notified him that the nonparticipating candidate made or became obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 100% of the grant. At that point, the candidate could spend additional money equal to the amount of the opponent's excess spending. The SEEC determined when a nonparticipating candidate made or became obligated to make an excess expenditure either on its own or at the request of a participating candidate. The same process occurred when the SEEC notified the comptroller that a nonparticipating candidate made or became obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 115%, 140%, and 165% of the applicable grant.

Under the act, the SEEC must notify each participating candidate, in addition to the state comptroller, when it determines that a nonparticipating candidate has made or become obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 90% of the applicable grant. Rather than directing the comptroller to provide additional money to each eligible opposing participating candidate, the SEEC must direct her to hold the funds in escrow until it determines that the nonparticipating candidate has made or become obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 100% of the grant. Within two business days of making that determination, the SEEC must process a voucher payment using the comptroller's accounting system. The act requires the comptroller, within three business days of receiving the authorized voucher, to draw an order on the state treasurer to electronically transfer the payment into each participating candidate's account. The same process occurs when a nonparticipating candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 115%, 140%, and 165% of the applicable grant.

If, within the seven days prior to a primary or election, the SEEC notifies the comptroller that a nonparticipating candidate has made or become obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 90% of the spending limit, or if additional money is being held in escrow, the comptroller must immediately pay each participating candidate the additional money. If a nonparticipating candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an expenditure exceeding 115%, 140%, and 165% of the applicable grant, the same process occurs.

By law, if the SEEC determines that a participating candidate has made or become obligated to make an expenditure exceeding the sum of the required qualifying contributions and the applicable grant, his participating opponents are entitled to a payment in the amount of the excess expenditure. The act makes the same changes to the way payments are processed when this occurs as it does to the way payments are processed when a nonparticipating candidate makes or becomes obligated to make an excess expenditure. The act limits a participating candidate to one such payment per campaign.

STATE ETHICS ( 31 & 32)

Revolving Door

The act prohibits a former governor from accepting employment as a lobbyist, for one year after leaving state service, with a business that received a contract with any state department or agency during his term. The act also prohibits such a business from employing a former governor. For a first offense, the act subjects a violator to the penalties for a class A misdemeanor, unless he derives a financial benefit of $1,000 or more, in which case it subjects him to the penalties for a class D felony (see Table on Penalties). For a subsequent offense, the act subjects him to the penalties for a class D felony.

Ban on Honoraria for the Governor's Spouse

The act prohibits the governor's spouse from accepting a fee or honorarium for an article, appearance, speech, or participation at an event when acting in the spouse's official role. Under prior law, the ban applied only to public officials and state employees.

The act allows the governor's spouse to receive payment or reimbursement for necessary expenses related to an activity in which he is acting in his official capacity. In that case, he must file a report with the SEEC within 30 days of the activity (unless the federal government or another state government provides the payment or reimbursement). If he neglects to do so, he must return the payment or reimbursement.

Like public officials and state employees, the governor's spouse is not required to file a report for admission to, or food or beverage at, an event where he is acting in his official capacity and is the principal speaker.

LOBBYISTS' POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS ( 24 & 25)

By law, communicator lobbyists cannot make contributions to, solicit others to make contributions to, or purchase advertising space from certain political committees. The law does not apply to lobbyists and their spouses, dependent children, or agents who solicit contributions or the purchase of advertising space for their own candidacies for public office.

The act:

1. expands the exception to the ban on contributions and solicitations by allowing an elected public official's immediate family members who are lobbyists to contribute to his campaign and solicit contributions on his behalf;

2. allows the SEEC to impose penalties of up to $5,000 or twice the amount of the contribution, whichever is greater, on violators of the contribution ban, thus making the penalty for illegal contributions the same as that for illegal solicitations; and

3. eliminates a requirement for lobbyists to file annual campaign contribution reports with SEEC since, by law, they and their families cannot contribute to campaigns.

CANDIDATE AND POLITICAL COMMITTEES ( 15 & 30)

Gifts

The act increases, from $50 to $100, the maximum amount of campaign funds that a campaign treasurer may spend per person during a calendar year or during a campaign on gifts for campaign or committee workers, flowers, or other commemorative items for political purposes.

Donations of Surplus

By law, candidate committees and political committees, other than ongoing PACs or exploratory committees, must spend or distribute surplus funds within 90 days of (1) a primary when a candidate loses, (2) an election, or (3) a referendum.

For candidate committees of candidates who do not participate in the Citizens' Election Program, the act limits the recipients who are eligible to receive surplus funds to (1) the Citizen's Election Fund and (2) charitable organizations. Under prior law they could distribute surplus funds to any of the following recipients: the fund, party committees, ongoing PACs, charitable organizations, and contributors on a prorated basis.

The law, unchanged by the act, requires a participating candidate committee to distribute any surplus to the Citizen's Election Fund.

SEEC STUDIES ( 26 & 27)

The act gives the SEEC two additional years to complete two studies and submit proposed legislation to the Government Administration and Elections Committee. Its proposal on extending the ban on state contractor campaign contributions and solicitations to subcontractors is due February 1, 2009 instead of February 1, 2007. Its proposal on municipal public financing is due January 1, 2009 instead of January 1, 2007.

LIST OF CONTRACTORS AND PROSPECTIVE CONTRACTORS ( 28)

The act allows any state agency to designate the SEEC, with its consent, as the entity in charge of obtaining information necessary to maintain its list of contractors and prospective contractors.

By law, each state and quasi-public agency must submit a form to the SEEC by July 1, 2006, listing the state contracts it is party to and the principals of state or prospective state contractors for (1) those contracts and (2) any bid solicitations, requests for proposals, or prequalification certificates it issued. Agencies must keep their lists current by submitting monthly updates.

VOTING RIGHTS, PLACES, AND OFFICIALS ( 1, 8, & 11)

Accessibility

By law, each polling place must be accessible to people with disabilities. If none is available within a voting district, a town can apply for a waiver, which the secretary of the state forwards to the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities for approval. The act requires registrars of voters to also certify to the secretary of the state that each polling place in their town complies with the law and it specifies that the registrars of voters are responsible for applying for a waiver from accessibility requirements.

Restoration of Felons' Voting Rights

The act eliminates a requirement for felons, other than those convicted of election-related crimes, to give a registrar of voters satisfactory proof that they have been released from prison and completed any parole before their voting rights can be restored. It also eliminates a requirement for felons released from a federal or out-of-state correctional institution to submit proof that they have paid all fines related to their conviction.

The law continues to require the correction commissioner to give each inmate a certificate of release and send the secretary of the state a monthly list of all felons released from his custody during the preceding calendar month. The secretary must send the list to the appropriate registrars.

Election Officials Training

The act eliminates a requirement that town clerks train election officials. Registrars of voters, moderators, and certified voting machine mechanics must continue to train them.

VACANCIES IN CONGRESS ( 9-10 & 12-13)

The law establishes processes for filling vacancies in elected offices, including those of U. S. Senator and Representative. The act changes deadlines in the processes for both.

Vacancies in the U. S. Senate

If the office of U. S. Senator becomes vacant, the governor must appoint a replacement. If there is sufficient time before the scheduled end of the term, an election is held to elect a successor to fill the office until the end of the term. Under prior law, if a vacancy occurred at least 60 days before a regularly scheduled state election (held in November of even-numbered years) and the term was not scheduled to end in the following January, an election to fill the balance of the term was held at the time of the regular election. The act moves the deadline forward from 60 to 150 days before the election. If the term was scheduled to end the following January, the appointed replacement completed the term. The act moves the deadline for holding an election for a successor from 60 to 150 days before the regular election.

The act similarly revises the deadlines for making party nominations and holding primaries. If the vacancy occurs at least 150, rather than 70, days before a state election, the act requires the parties to hold a convention to endorse their candidates. A candidate who qualifies to run in a primary must file to do so by 4 p. m. on the 21st, rather than 14th, day after the close of the convention. If the convention is closed when the vacancy occurs, the party must reconvene it and choose their candidate to fill the vacancy. A candidate challenging the endorsed candidate must file for a primary by 4 p. m. on the 21st, rather than 5th, day after the close of the reconvened convention.

Prior law prohibited a primary to fill the vacancy from being held less than 28 days after the close of a reconvened convention and later than 21 days before a state election. The act changes the earliest day for the primary from 28 to 49 days after the reconvened convention.

Vacancies in the U. S. House of Representatives

If a vacancy occurs in the office of U. S. Representative, the law requires the governor to order an election by issuing writs of election. The act establishes a timeframe for issuing the writs and holding the election.

Under the act, if the vacancy occurs 125 days or more before the next regular state election, the governor must issue the writs within 10 days after the vacancy occurs and the election must be held 60 days after the writs are issued, but not on a weekend. If the vacancy occurs more than 63 but less than 125 days before the next regular state election, the act requires the writs to be issued 60 days before the next regular election and the election to be held simultaneously with the next regular election. If the vacancy occurs 63 days or less before the next regular state election, there is no election to fill the vacancy, unless the vacated position is that of a member-elect.

Electors included on the last registry list completed for the last regular election in the town or political subdivision holding the special election or on any supplementary or updated list are eligible to vote in the election.

Candidate Selection for Vacancies in the U. S. House of Representatives or Multi-Town Probate Court District

Under the act, delegates to a nominating convention for U. S. Representative or a multi-town probate judge are the same ones who served at the convention held for the previous state election. The town committee in the town where the delegate lived fills any vacancy in the delegation.

Parties may hold a convention to endorse candidates between the time when the vacancy occurs and 50 days before the election to fill the vacancy. The endorsements are not effective until the presiding officer and secretary of the convention certify them to the secretary of the state.

If a vacancy occurs between the 125th day and 63rd day before a regular November state or municipal election, the act prohibits a primary from being held; instead the party-endorsed candidate is deemed the party's nominee. A primary may be held to fill a vacancy that occurs before the 125th day if a person challenges the endorsed candidate within 14 days after the endorsement. In this case, the primary takes place on the day designated in the original writs of election, and the governor must issue writs for a general election 60 days later. The governor must announce the primary within 10 days after a candidate qualified to run in a primary files a nominating petition. The secretary of the state must make petition forms available on the day after the governor announces the election.

PETITIONS ( 4, 6, & 7)

The act requires the secretary of the state to make primary petition forms available to probate judge and legislative candidates on the 77th day before a primary. Under prior law, she was required to make them available on the day after each party's district convention. District conventions can be held between the 98th and 77th day before the primary.

The act changes the deadline for a petitioning candidate for state or legislative office to file a petition with the registrar of voters from 14 days after a convention to 63 days before the primary.

ENDORSED CANDIDATES ( 2-3, & 5)

The act invalidates a candidate's party endorsement, endorsement to run in a primary, or selection as a delegate to a convention if the certificate of endorsement or selection is not filed with the secretary of the state or town clerk, as applicable, by the statutory deadline. Such endorsements or selections were already deemed not to have been made or certified.

The act eliminates a requirement for both the chairman or presiding officer of a caucus or convention and the secretary of a town committee, caucus, or convention to certify a candidate's endorsement to run in a municipal primary. Instead, either may certify the endorsement, just as is the case for endorsements to state or district office.

The act requires candidates and delegates who mail their certificates to do so by certified mail, return receipt requested. It requires the secretary of the state or town clerk, as appropriate, to stamp the date and time on hand-delivered certificates.

JUSTICES OF THE PEACE ( 14)

The act increases, from 15 to 30, the number of justices of the peace in Trumbull. The law sets a rule for determining the number of justices of the peace in each town, but it specifies the number in Waterbury, Meriden, Litchfield, and Trumbull. It continues to allow any town to pass an ordinance to reduce its number of justices of the peace; however, each town must permit at least 15.

BACKGROUND

Additional Grants for Participating Candidates

The law, unchanged by the act, allows a participating candidate to receive additional grants of 25% of the applicable grant, provided he has not spent more than the grant he receives plus his allowable qualifying contributions, each time his nonparticipating opponent exceeds certain thresholds. The law limits participating candidates to one payment per threshold and their spending to 100% of the nonparticipating candidate's excess expenditure up to the grant amount. The expenditures that trigger additional grants are 115%, 140%, and 165% of the applicable grant. For example, if a nonparticipating candidate spends 115% of a participating candidate's applicable grant, the participating candidate receives an additional grant of 25% of the applicable grant if he did not spend more than the sum of (1) the amount of his required qualifying contributions and (2) 125% of the applicable grant. When the nonparticipating candidate spends more than 125% of the applicable grant, it triggers permission for the participating candidate's spending up to 125%.

OLR Tracking: KSDD: PF: dw