It was only a procedural movement, but an important one... as the Assembly today approved legislation to create a system of public financing for political campaigns.
AB 583, from Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), would provide public funds to candidates for statewide office and the Legislature as long as they also collected a nunber of small dollar contributions. The amounts of public money vary by campaign (primary vs. general), by office sought, and by grassroots contributions received.
The lowest amount of taxpayer funds to be given out would be $100,000 for a primary campaign in the Assembly; the highest amount would be $10 million for a general election in a gubernatorial race. It also requires candidates who spend their own money to declare an amount when they register to run.
The bill passed on a vote of 46-24, with many legislators saying their "yes" vote was to keep the bill alive for more discussion in the Senate, and ultimately a conference committee of the two chambers. The bill faced a Tuesday deadline to get out of the Assembly.
Some of the GOP lawmakers who voted against the bill said they prefer more transparency of who contributes what, and some also suggested that impartial drawing of district lines would be the real solution to the problems in politics.
But several Democrats argued it's a discussion whose time has come. "I think the voters would be more supportive of this legislative body," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-LA), " if we made an effort to take money out of politics."
The legislation received a boost in recent weeks when it was endorsed by the California Nurses Association, fresh off their special election victory against the agenda of Governor Schwarzenegger. And the bill is similar in some respects to public financing laws already on the books in both Arizona and Maine.