Legislature Approves Bill Removing Prohibition on Public Campaign Financing

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Sacramento, CA – Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) to remove current law’s prohibition on public financing of campaigns received final approval from the legislature today.  The measure, SB 1107, passed the state Senate on a vote of 27 – 12, just one day after it received a bipartisan, 55 votes in the state Assembly.

“This is a long overdue reform that will enable local governments to enact public financing systems for campaigns if they want to.  People across the political spectrum are fed up with the campaign funding arms race that candidates must engage in when running for office.  With the enactment of this measure, we will create a path to a sensible alternative,” Senator Allen said.

Local governments and the state are prohibited from adopting public campaign financing systems due to a provision that became law as part of Proposition 73 in 1988. While charter cities such as Los Angeles are exempt from the prohibition under the state Constitution, general law cities, counties, districts, and the state government are covered by the current ban.  SB 1107 does not create, or require any government to establish, a public campaign financing program; it simply restores the option for local governments and the state to do so.

“Studies of existing public financing programs have found they reduce the need to fundraise while increasing the diversity of donors.  Under SB 1107, local governments would have the flexibility to tailor policies to local concerns and conditions, while requiring basic protections for fairness and accountability,” said Nicolas Heidorn, Policy and Legislation Counsel for California Common Cause, a sponsor of the bill along with the organization California Clean Money Campaign.

Currently, six charter cities have adopted limited public funding programs to match small campaign contributions. These programs provide candidates with an alternative to relying on large campaign contributions and amplify the voices of everyday Californians who make small donations.

Additionally, SB 1107 includes another commonsense provision to increase election accountability.  The bill requires elected officials, who under current law are banned from running for office due to conviction of a specified felony such as bribery, to forfeit their campaign funds within six months, after paying debts or returning contributions, other than legal defense funds. 

SB 1107 now moves to the governor’s desk where it must be acted upon by September 30.

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