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Gov. Snyder signs bills to update campaign finance laws, add unprecedented levels of transparency

Groups behind ads, robocalls and mail will be identified

Friday, December 27, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s 40-year-old campaign finance laws have been updated to bring an unprecedented level of transparency and openness to the state’s political system through bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The new law will, for the first time in Michigan, require important identifying information be included in political ads, robocalls and mail.

SB 661, sponsored by state Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, makes sure that voters have up-to-date information on who is contributing money to candidates and how candidates are spending that money. This new, unprecedented level of transparency will give Michiganders valuable information on a timely basis, helping to preserve the integrity of the state’s electoral system.

“For nearly four decades, organizations could anonymously publish or broadcast ads, make countless phone calls to voters at their homes, and send piles of mail without any identifying information,” Snyder said. “Voters wouldn’t know which organization was behind the effort, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to contact that organization. Thanks to these new reforms, that anonymity will be no more.”

These reforms result in greater transparency, while preserving the Freedoms of Speech and Association, enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the political system, Americans exercise those rights my making contributions to candidates whom they strongly believe in and by speaking out on issues of public importance.

The reforms update limits on how much an individual can contribute to a candidate, though the figure is still less than the rate of inflation from the prior law. That strikes a balance between a voter’s right to contribute to the political process while preserving necessary limits to ensure the integrity of the electoral system.

The maximum donation to a candidate seeking statewide office would be $6,800, to a candidate for state Senate would be $2,000 and to a candidate for the state House would be $1,000.

“Our democracy thrives and our government is at its best when there is openness and accountability, all while our freedoms of speech and association are protected,” Snyder said. “Together with my partners in the Legislature, we have taken steps to uphold those values, modernize our electoral system, and continue to reinvent government to better serve the people of Michigan.”

The bill is now Public Act 252 of 2013.

Snyder also signed a series of other election reforms into law. All received strong bipartisan support.

HB 4393, sponsored by state Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, requires the wording of a local, school district, or county ballot question to be certified to the appropriate clerk by 4 p.m. on the 12th Tuesday before the election, rather than 70 days in advance as currently required.

It is now Public Act 253 of 2013.

HB 4394, sponsored by state Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, amends an 1846 law that covers township governance with regard to a question to reestablish the annual meeting of the electors of a township other than a charter township.

It is now Public Act 254 of 2013.

HB 4395, sponsored by state Rep, Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, amends a 1994 law regarding community swimming pool authorities with regard to a question on the millage for operating such pools.

It is now Public Act 255 of 2013.

HB 4396, sponsored by state Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, amends a 1948 law regarding the submission to electors of a full faith and credit general obligation contract of lease with a building authority.

 It is now Public Act 256 of 2013.

 HB 4397, sponsored by state Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, amends the Metropolitan Councils Act regarding a proposal for a tax to be levied by a metropolitan area council for certain public improvements and services.

 It is now Public Act 257 of 2013.

SB 440, sponsored by state Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, amends the Michigan Campaign Finance Act to require a committee to file its campaign statements and reports electronically if it received or spent at least $5,000, rather than $20,000, in one year. A companion bill, SB441, also sponsored by Robertson, allows counties to adopt an electronic filing system for campaign finance reporting.

They are now Public Acts 258 and 259 of 2013.

Visit legislature.michigan.gov for more information.

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