Symington concerned over possible campaign finance veto

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(Host) House Speaker Gaye Symington says she’ll be very disappointed if Governor Jim Douglas vetoes a new campaign finance reform law.

However, the head of the Vermont Republican Party says the bill is unconstitutional and the GOP might file a lawsuit to overturn the proposal if the governor does sign it.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Lawmakers will be returning to the Statehouse in the middle of July to consider the governor’s veto of a comprehensive global warming bill.

But the energy bill might not be the only piece of legislation that lawmakers will consider because Douglas is also thinking about vetoing the campaign finance reform bill.

The legislation establishes contribution limits for statewide and legislative candidates and it also limits contributions by political parties to individual candidates to $30,000.

This is a key change, because in recent years, a number of gubernatorial candidates received more than $300,000 from their national party organizations.

And for the first time, the bill includes a limit on the total amount of money an individual can contribute to various Vermont campaigns. The cap is $20,000.

The Vermont Republican Party and several other groups successfully challenged the state’s previous campaign finance reform law at the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

That could happen again if this bill becomes law because GOP director Rob Roper is convinced that the limits on contributions by political parties is illegal.

(Roper) “Those are unconstitutional and it certainly would hurt the party’s ability to field competitive candidates and it would undermine what the role of the parties are supposed to be in the political process.”

(Kinzel) The Governor says he has some concerns about the legislation and he says he’s reviewing the legal arguments against the bill.

(Douglas) “I don’t think I can veto a bill just because there’s a threat of litigation because there are lots of others where some people threaten to sue the state. But this is a case where the attorney for plaintiffs who prevailed in the United States Supreme Court belief that the new law is likely to be challenged with some success. So I have to calculate that into my decision making process”.

(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington says she’s stunned by the threat of a possible gubernatorial veto because she says Douglas never raised concerns about the bill with her during the session.

(Symington) “I think that really reflects disrespect for the Legislature but also disrespect for the value Vermonters put on making sure that money does not play a disproportionate role in our elections. And I’ll be very disappointed if the governor chooses to veto that legislation.”

(Kinzel) Douglas is expected to make a final decision about this bill in the next week or two.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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