Kentucky governors and other statewide offices would be elected in even-numbered years and all candidates in the state would have to file campaign finance reports electronically under two bills approved Wednesday by a Senate committee.
These were the first pieces of legislation voted on in Kentucky’s 2019 law-making session, which began Tuesday. The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved them Wednesday and sent them to the Senate for its consideration.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, called both measures “excellent” and predicted they would do well in the Senate.
House Speaker David Osborne, though, was not sure about the fate of Senate Bill 5, the measure dealing with gubernatorial elections. It would require an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution, which Kentucky voters wouldn’t consider until November 2020.
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“We’ve always had some concerns with it,” said Osborne, R-Prospect. “It’s a little more difficult in the House than in the Senate.”
He said the concerns dealt with money and politics, but did not elaborate.
Kentucky’s constitutional officers are elected once every four years in odd-numbered years, such as 2019, when there are no federal elections. As a result, turnout is often lower.
SB 5 would save state and local governments about $13.5 million in election costs after it takes effect in 2028, said Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Latonia.
Thayer noted that, under the measure, the governor and other constitutional officers elected in 2023 would serve a five-year term instead of a four-year term.
Thayer is the sponsor of Senate Bill 4, which would require electronic filing of all campaign finance reports beginning in 2020.
He said voters would know more easily and quickly “where the money is coming from and how it is being spent” for campaigns. “This would be the kind of transparency voters deserve,” he said.
John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said only 106 candidates filed their financial reports electronically last year, while 1,600 filed paper copies.
Steffen said the registry does not have enough staff to transfer the data on those papers into a digital format in a timely manner.
“There is no way to continue doing with them what we are doing now,” said Craig Dilger, chairman of the registry.
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, voiced concern about educating campaign treasurers on electronic filing. He did not vote on the measure, while other committee members supported it.