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Campaign Finance Bill Passes; Leaders Relieved

A contentious campaign finance bill passed the Vermont Senate Thursday 20-8.
MONTPELIER - A contentious campaign finance bill passed the Vermont Senate Thursday 20-8.

The bill passed the House last week.

Among other things, the bill sets limits on how much a person can donate to a candidate running for office in Vermont.

If the Governor signs the bill, the limits will be $4,000 for a statewide candidate, $1,500 for State Senate candidates and $1,000 for House candidates.

The legislature has been trying to agree on a campaign finance bill for seven years, so many said getting this through early on in the session is a big weight off their shoulders.

"Relief," said State Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden). "Because we actually have no campaign finance law now."

A campaign finance law passed in 1997 but was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2006. Since then, some state leaders referred back to the 1981 law, which set limits at $2,000 across the board. But the legislature never formally re-adopted that law.

"If somebody were to challenge our campaign finance law, it wouldn't stand up in court," Sen. Baruth said. "What we have here is comprehensive, and it's defensible. And that's a relief."

Secretary of State Jim Condos' office will be implementing the new law, including a new online system that will allow Vermonters to see who donated to candidates, and how much.

"This is going to help us provide much better transparency to Vermonters," Sec. Condos said. "They'll be able to find out more about where the money's coming from and how it's being spent," he said.

Condos says although the law requires his office to have the online system up and running by Jan. 1, they plan to finish early, launching in July.

If the governor signs the bill into law, it will go into effect Jan. 1 2015, since we are currently in the middle of an election cycle and candidates are already raising campaign funds.
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