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House makes incremental progress on elections transparency; will Senate follow suit?

It kind of feels like dispensing praise for not robbing a bank, but hey, in today’s North Carolina political world , we’ll take what we can get.

Accordingly, the House of Representatives deserves a sincere ‘attaboy and ‘attagirl for passing legislation this week to require electronic records filing by most local and state candidates and political committees. The provision was watered down somewhat and doesn’t go into effect for three years, but it’s better than nothing. As the good people at the Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform noted with justifiable pride:

“The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is commends the NC House for passing a bill today to require electronic filing of campaign reports.  All political campaigns and committees raising and/or spending more than $5,000 will be required to submit electronic reports to the NC Board of Elections beginning January 1, 2017.

The Coalition has been working for over five years to get electronic filing which will make it easier for citizens to see how much money candidates raise and from whom.  It will save the state money because state employees will no longer have to key in data from handwritten or typed reports.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Rep. Pricey Harrison( D- Guilford) worked together to amend SB 403, the NC Senate’s election bill, to include the requirement for electronic filing.  Harrison was the author of the amendment and Lewis was managed the bill on the House floor.

Disclosure and transparency mean North Carolinians will be able to know what is happening in campaigns in our state.  They will know from whom candidates are raising money and how they are spending it, and will be to learn it quickly after candidates and committees file their reports. This will increase citizen confidence in our government and have benefits for all of us.”

Of course, mere passage by the House is just a first step. With the session winding down and the Senate as cantankerous as ever, there’s every reason to be concerned about whether the bill will really become law. As Raleigh’s News & Observer noted in an editorial this morning:

“Now it’s up to the Senate to approve the legislation and move campaign finance reporting into the 21st century.

That shouldn’t be a problem, but apparently some senators prefer slow disclosure to timely disclosure. The House passed a similar measure last year by 115-1 only to see it stall in the Senate.

That electronic filing requirement should be approved by the Senate this session. Transparency delayed is transparency denied.”

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