A new task force charged with developing policy to create a system of publicly financed elections in New Hampshire will meet for the first time at 3 pm on Tuesday, October 20th in Room 103 of the State House in Concord. The bi-partisan group was mandated by the passage of HB513 last session and its members include both current legislators and citizen advocates appointed by the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and the Governor.
Citizen Funded Elections Task Force members include: Senator Martha Fuller Clark (prime sponsor of HB513) and Senator Sharon Carson; Representatives Jim Splaine, Bob Perry, and Kathleen Hoelzel; former Representative and Coalition for Open Democracy (COD) Board Member Gordon Allen; PACE: Public Action for Clean Elections Board Member Abi Abrash-Walton; former Executive Councilor Peter Spaulding; former Senator Jim Rubens; and Rob Werner of Americans for Campaign Reform. One final member is yet to be appointed by Governor Lynch.
“Members of this new task force bring considerable expertise to the table,” said Representative Bob Perry, task force member. “There are also successful working models from other states, like Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, as well as a federal bill (the Fair Elections Now Act, or FENA), from which ideas can be drawn in drafting a bill for New Hampshire. We’ll need to identify sufficient and appropriate funding for a new system in order to get it underway.”
Efforts to pass public funding of elections in NH date back to 2002, when a bill to create the infrastructure for a system of public financing for state senate, executive council and gubernatorial races passed the Senate and narrowly failed in the House. According to COD, support within the legislature for such reform has expanded significantly since that time.
“It’s time we move forward on this fundamental reform,” said Sam Mekrut, Chair of Coalition for Open Democracy, a NH grassroots organization whose primary focus is engaging people in advocating for public funding of elections. “A large majority of NH voters support public funding because they see how, under our current system, wealthy special interests have a greater voice on issues like health care and the environment than voters do.” Coalition for Open Democracy believes that public financing ought to be enacted both at the national and state level to ensure that the voices of voters are not drowned out by large corporations and wealthy special interests. “By enhancing confidence in the democratic process, we ensure greater participation by voters and prospective candidates, bringing more ideas and energy to address complex problems.”
“Public funding of elections helps free candidates and elected officials from endless fundraising, allowing them to focus on policy-making and constituent concerns,” said long-time public financing advocate and COD member Doris “Granny D” Haddock. “You have to be a patriot to consider running for office in NH. It pays only $100 a year and then people say they have to spend at least ¼ of their time fundraising.”
The Citizen Funded Elections Task Force will make an initial report to the legislature in November 2009 and a final report in 2010, in time for legislation to be filed for the 2011 session. The Task Force is scheduled to meet again at 3 PM on October 27th; the regular meeting schedule is yet to be determined. Meetings are open to the public and interested activists are encouraged to join Granny D and other COD members in attending.