STATE HOUSE – Sen. Thomas Paolino, a Republican representing Districr 17 in Lincoln, North Providence and North Smithfield, introduced Senate Bill 846 relating to campaign finance. Paolino said the omnibus reform package is the result of collaboration with Rep. Brian Newberry, a Repblican from District 48 in Burrillville and North Smithfield, who introduced companion Bill 5962 in the House, following informal meetings seeking suggestions from stakeholders, including Secretary of State Gregg Amore, Common Cause executive director John Marion and employees of the RI Board of Elections.
This legislation would raise the minimum aggregate reporting amount to $200 per year and the contribution limit for individuals and political action committees to $2,000 per year. It would also expand public financing to include primary elections and prohibit public financing for any candidate with outstanding fines owed to the board of elections. Lastly, it would define accounts payable and terms related to donated campaign expenditures.
“This legislation aims to maximize people’s ability to run and to support candidates while safeguarding against potential abuses,” said Paolino. “We garnered input from varied sources with the idea of a compromise that everyone can support to varying degrees. By expanding public and private financing options and giving specific definition to terms that have caused concern in the past, we will promote more participation in the election process.”
“It has been 20 years since contribution limits have changed. If those limits had kept pace with inflation, they would be higher than what this legislation proposes,” said Newberry. “The increase of the minimum aggregate for reporting empowers small donors, many of whom don’t want to be identified. Public financing for primary elections makes sense as, regretfully, many times the primary is the election. In total, the proposed reforms will modernize and strengthen our system and expand opportunities for candidates and donors.”