Bill for Publicly Funded Elections Advances

Advocates for campaign finance reform were pleased today when the House of Representatives passed House Bill 1481, a law that would modernize Hawaii’s outdated partial public funding program for elections.  The measure passed with three legislators voting “no”.

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The original public funding program was implemented during the 1978 Constitutional Convention, but has become ineffective over time.  In the 2012 election cycle, only one house candidate used the the funds.  Advocates in favor of house bill 1481 say it is now time to upgrade the old program.

“Delegates in 1978 fought hard to implement this important program, and we owe it to them to modernize it to make it useful once again”, said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii, a non-partisan non profit organization working to pass the bill.

Representative Chris Lee (D – 51, Lanikai, Waimanalo), a supporter of the bill added “this is a first big step toward limiting the influence of money and special interest influence in our political process.”

In 2008, Voter Owned Hawaii led and effort to implement a similar program for Big Island County elections.  That program ran in the 2010 and 2012 elections and was largely deemed successful.  Currently, five out of nine councilors on the Big Island were elected without accepting money from special interests.

According to Payne, the program is intended to serve taxpayers.  “Special interests donate to politicians to get a return on their investment, and right now they’ve cornered the market on elections and the public is not invited to the party.  Publicly funded elections will save taxpayer money by allowing politicians to make decisions based upon what’s best for the people instead of campaign donors,” he said.

Forty-eight out of fifty-one legislators voted in favor of HB 1481, and Richard Fale, Marcus Oshiro, and Sharon Har voted “no”.

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