Monday, November 09, 2009

Impartial Justice Legislation Passes Assembly and Senate

MADISON– On Friday, Nov. 6, the State Assembly and State Senate passed the Impartial Justice Bill that creates a public financing option for Supreme Court elections. Senate Bill 40 passed the Senate with a vote of 19 to 13 and the Assembly with a vote of 51 to 42. Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) was the lead Assembly sponsor of this bill. The next step will be for this bill to go to Governor Doyle who has stated that he will sign this bill into law.

“I am extremely proud of my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate for passing this important legislation,” said Rep. Hintz. “Our recent Supreme Court elections have highlighted the need to reduce the heavy influence of big money in Supreme Court campaigns. This is an important step in the right direction to help restore the impartiality of our state’s highest court.”

The need for reform is underscored by the rising costs of recent Supreme Court Elections in recent years. In 2007, $5.8 million was spent on the Supreme Court race. This was more than four times the amount that had ever been spent on a Supreme Court election in prior years. In 2008, that spending increased to nearly $6 million.

“Opponents of this legislation were quick to point out that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for politicians to run for office,” added Hintz. “But our Supreme Court Justices are not politicians, they are judges. They serve a very different role than politicians. It is crucial that we protect the integrity of the court system and maintain the public perception of an impartial judiciary.”

The Impartial Justice Bill (SB 40) changes Wisconsin ’s campaign finance law to create a public financing option for Supreme Court Justice candidates.

Some key components of the bill include:

· This bill creates the Democracy Trust Fund to finance elections for eligible candidates for the Office of Supreme Court Justice through a $2.00 checkoff option on your state tax state income tax form

· An eligible Supreme Court candidate would receive $100,000 in the spring primary and $300,000 for the spring election.

· This bill lowers the maximum allowable contribution from an individual to a candidate from $10,000 to $1,000 and a committee to a candidate from $8,625 to $1,000.

· Effective date: December 1st following the date of publication


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