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Senate OKs Campaign Finance Commission, Prop 3 Implementation Bills

Senate OKs Campaign Finance Commission, Prop 3 Implementation Bills

The full Senate voted Thursday to create a new six-member, bipartisan campaign finance regulation commission, removing those enforcement powers from the Secretary of State (SOS).

The Senate voted 25-11 on the five-bill package, with Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) joining the Democrats in rejecting the creation of a Fair Political Practices Commission. Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) and Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) weren't present for the votes.

SB 1248 through SB 1252 would create the commission that would be charged with administering and enforcing the state's campaign finance law, instead of the SOS. 

It would be a six-member commission, much like the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but appointed by the Governor from lists submitted by the two major political parties.

Critics have said this is a shot taken at Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson. Both Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) spoke out against the bills on the floor, urging support for Benson and to trust her with campaign finance regulation.

Sen. Steven Bieda (D-Warren) said after the vote that while legislators make laws, "we are not above them" and said some in the room "refuse to accept the consequences of the election."

The sponsor of the package, Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), defended the commission concept, arguing any action taken by the commission would require bipartisan agreement and that it's not a new concept, as 23 other states have similar arrangements.

Benson issued a statement Thursday describing Senate Republicans' approach as "hyper-partisan" and in "sharp contrast to my goal of collaborating across the aisle to take Michigan from worst to first in ethics and transparency."

"I continue to believe, if not hope, that House Republicans want to work together to solve problems, not create them and will reject this bill on its face," Benson said.

Asked about the campaign finance legislation moving off the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said, "I think this is day six of thwarting the will of the voters," adding later, "It's the equivalent of a legislative coup of the will of the voters . . . every single thing that they've put forward, they've found a way to undermine, and I think Thursday was, Thursday was Secretary of State day. So we'll see what next week is."

The campaign finance commission package moved out of Robertson's Elections and Government Reform Committee Wednesday after the bills were introduced two weeks ago.

The League of Women Voters of Michigan Thursday said the Senate's actions "weaken the enforcement of campaign finance laws in our state."

The Senate Thursday also OK’d a package of bills that have been dubbed implementation legislation needed to go along with the voter-approved Proposal 3 constitutional amendment.

Those also cleared Robertson's committee Wednesday, which are SB 1238 through SB 1242. Those bills passed 26-10 on party-line votes.

They've been described by sponsor Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) as providing needed clarity in the various parts of election law that Proposal 3 touched. 

Senate Republicans spokesperson Amber McCann said one major piece of the Prop 3 legislation is to stipulate that same-day registration and voting from the 14th  day before the election up to Election Day needs to be done in-person at the clerk's office or a place designated as the clerk's office.

Critics, however, remain concerned about the speed the legislation is traveling and question whether it may undermine the will of the voters who approved it.

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