JACKSON — Mississippi Senate and House committees Thursday advanced bills that would change voting, filing and campaign finance reporting procedures.
The Senate Elections Committee passed a bill that would require Mississippi candidates to report campaign expenses they pay with a credit card. Senate Bill 2374 requires candidates to specify to whom they pay campaign expenses made with a credit card and what the payment covered.
Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said the bill is meant to close a loophole that allows candidates to report only the dollar amount of the expenses they pay with a credit card without specifying details.
Candidates would have to report, for example, not only that they made a purchase of $10,000 with a credit card, but that they paid that money to a specific business. The committee approved a change to the bill that makes clear candidates aren’t required to itemize details of an expense. If a candidate pays a firm and the firm buys television spots at four stations, the candidate would only have to specify how much was paid and to whom. The candidate would not have to itemize every detail.
“Even if I write one check to pay a firm and that firm makes multiple purchases, I think that’s a single transaction,” Blount said.
Elections Committee Chairwoman Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, said the bill would create transparency without being burdensome.
“Nowadays, you often have to use a credit card for payments,” she said. “What this bill requires looks very similar to what is itemized on a credit card billing statement.”
The Senate committee also passed Senate Bill 2167, which would require independent candidates to pay filing fees to run in an election and increase the qualifying fees that party candidates pay to run for certain offices. Candidates for governor would pay $1,500, up from the current $500; and candidates for a state senator or representative would pay $500, up from the current $15.
The bill would ensure that only people serious candidates run for office, Doty said.
“This is not about incumbents protecting themselves from competitors,” she said. “This is just a way to keep our ballot integrity and modernize our filing process.”
Both bills go to the full Senate for more debate.
ALSO AT THE CAPITOL
The House Apportions and Elections Committee approved two bills designed to make it easier for people to vote:
— House Bill 796 would allow people to start voting three weeks before an election. Current law requires people to report specific reasons for voting early. The bill moves to the full House.
— House Bill 809 would allow voters to register to vote online. The bill moves to House Judiciary A Committee for more work.
The House Elections Committee also passed a bill that would increase penalties against anyone charged with improper conduct of elections, including tampering with ballot boxes. House Bill 866 moves to the full House.
Senate Bill 2374, http://bit.ly/1ovgcdD
Senate Bill 2167, http://bit.ly/1VqSol9
House Bill 796, http://bit.ly/1QnNHKS
House Bill 809, http://bit.ly/1RbiaZu
House Bill 866, http://bit.ly/1WuMPCC
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