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Issues and actions recommended by

VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 6

									Issues and actions recommended by

Common Cause national and state organizations and by PAR in Louisiana

Report presented by Rose Howe, member CCLA Board of Directors, January
25, 2007

      For an overview of Common Cause’s current national goals for democratic
government accountable to its citizens, please refer to the “Our Issues” page on
the commoncause.org website (www.commoncause.org) .

       There is also a list of “Common Cause’s 2006 top 10 accomplishments in
the states”. Note: Louisiana is ahead in certain areas such as having an Ethics
Commission already in place; though we may need to study how independent the
Commission is in terms of its member appointments and operations. As we have
seen, it is dependent on state government funding for its budget.
In summary, the top 10 accomplishments are:

    1) Georgia: Common Cause led as plaintiff in a court challenge to the state’s
       restrictive voter ID laws requiring voters to show photo IDs (drivers’
       licenses) at the polls. The court granted an injunction from such a
       requirement that CC argued often discouraged voters without drivers’
       licenses such as the elderly, the disabled, and groups of both urban and
       rural voters.

    2) Colorado: Common Cause led efforts to pass an ethics initiative that won
       62% of voters’ support. The law bans gifts from lobbyists to elected
       officials and other government officials, creates a 2-year cooling off period
       before state legislators may lobby for pay, and establishes an independent
       ethics commission to oversee the law. Note: La. Title 42, section 1121
       prohibits any former agency head or elected official from assisting another
       person for compensation in a transaction or an appearance in connection
       with a transaction involving that agency or render any service on a
       contractual basis to or for such agency for a 2 year period following the
       termination of his public service with the agency.

    3) Pennsylvania: still working on efforts to pass a lobbyist disclosure and
       regulation law which began more than 30 years ago but now contains
       stronger ethics standards for lobbyists and disclosure requirements.

    4) N. Carolina: Passage of a comprehensive lobbying and ethics bill that
       establishes an independent ethics commission, imposes new restrictions
       on gift-giving from lobbyists, and prohibits personal use of campaign
       money for all legislative candidates.




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    5) New Jersey: Common Cause won passage of a reform state law to protect
       existing municipal and county pay-to-play reform laws ( Common Cause
       NJ won prohibitions of pay-to-play contracting laws in 20 towns) and got
       the state to expand the powers of municipalities and counties to include
       independent authorities, school boards, and fire districts in the prohibition.

    6) New York: CC and allies get the New York City Council to pass a package
       of historic lobby reforms that ban gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers,
       improves lobbyist disclosure requirement, increases penalties for failure to
       comply, and makes campaign contributions from lobbyists ineligible for
       matching funds under New York City’s public financing system.

    7) Rhode Island: CC worked on a ballot initiative approved by the voters that
       will restore voting rights to state residents on probation and parole.

    8) Tennessee: CC helps win the formation of the state’s first independent
       ethics commission in the wake of the Tennessee Waltz bribery sting that
       led to federal charges against 11 people, including 5 current or former
       legislators.

    9) Montana: CC helps win passage of a ballot initiative approved by voters to
       establish a 2 year waiting period before lawmakers and certain state
       officials can lobby after leaving government.

    10) California: CC helps pass a ballot initiative that implemented instant runoff
       voting in the city of Oakland, in circumstances where multiple candidates
       run for a single seat. The method asks voters to rank candidates in order
       of preference, thus giving voters a wide range of choices and ensuring
       that the will of the majority is reflected.

There are several areas in which CCLA could do long-range projects

 The Common Cause Election Reform Agenda which provides a
comprehensive list of recommendations in order to reform the system of voting,
easing barriers to voting, election administration designed for the voters,
openness throughout the process, nonpartisan supervision of elections and
making the way we vote a higher priority at all levels of government.

              Comply with HAVA- required statewide voter registration database
              Implement election day registration
              Uniform and fair ID requirements
              Time-off for voting
              Election day as a holiday
              Enforcement of existing laws and prosecute illegal activities
               intended to intimidate voters or disrupt turnout



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       International or nonpartisan election observers to observe polling
        places without prior notice or permission, provided they do not
        disrupt election day processes
       Establish statewide standards for challenges procedures
        characterized by transparency and fairness, including penalties for
        partisan or otherwise frivolous challenges
       Re-enfranchisement should be automatic upon completion of
        parole.
       Prohibit non-elected election administrators from participating in
        partisan political campaigns. Elected officials should be limited to
        participating in their own campaigns.
       Include non-partisan and unaffiliated voters in decision-making, poll
        watching and other aspects of election administration.
       Establish strict conflict of interest laws for all elections officials.
       Voter-verified paper ballot that is the official ballot for purposes of
        recounts and audits.
       All systems of voting need better testing, maintenance and
        independent certification.
       Voting systems must allow voters with disabilities to be able to vote
        privately and independently.
       The process for testing and certification must be open and
        computer security experts should be allowed access to the voting
        machine software.
       Ensure sufficient funding of the U.S. Election Assistance
        Commission and the National Institute for Standards and
        Technology to set standards for voting systems and update those
        standards when necessary.
       Rigorous poll worker training
       Ensure an adequate number of poll workers with minimum
        standards for number of poll workers and machines at each polling
        place
       Written information available to voters at the polling place on
        election day about their voting rights
       Adequate notice about location of polling place and where early
        voting is held
       Communication system where voters can check on their polling
        place location and hours open
       During 3 months prior to an election, there should be open training
        days in public places where voters can learn how to operate voting
        equipment.
       ID necessary only at registration and identification can consist of a
        broad range of documents which will not discriminate against those
        without a drivers’ license or official ID.
       Strict standards and usage restrictions for state voter databases but
        allowing voters to verify their voting status


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        Provisional ballots when voter appears at incorrect precinct
    Funding for elections and HAVA with federal assistance to the states



    Public Financing of Elections in the states is another project but this
    would require more study of laws passed by other states. The texts of
    these laws are available on the Common Cause website. We would need
    to develop a model package to propose, promote and develop a winning
    legislative strategy with the help of many allies. 14 states have some form
    of public financing:

          Gubernatorial candidates: Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New
           Jersey, Vermont

          Statewide Office candidates: Florida, Rhode Island

          Statewide & legislative candidates: Arizona, Hawaii, Maine,
           Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin

          Political Party designated by the taxpayer: Alabama, Arizona,
           Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode
           Island, Utah, Virginia

          Political party (according to a distribution formula): California,
           Indiana, Ohio

          Judicial candidates: North Carolina

          State utility oversight commissions: New Mexico

    What other state organizations are doing to promote public financing:

          Georgia CC is working with a bi-partisan coalition in the Ga.
           General Assembly and with the Georgia Bar Association to create a
           recommendation and legislation creating a public financing
           mechanism for statewide judicial elections based on the model law
           in North Carolina.

          California CC worked to promote passage of Proposition 89 which
           would set up public financing. There is no report on whether to
           Proposition passed.

          North Carolina elatedly reported that 5 out of 6 judicial candidates
           opted for public financing and won their elections. The 6th seat was
           a race between candidates who did not opt for public financing.


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          Arizona is fighting a petition campaign to place a proposal to repeal
           the Clean Elections law ( the public financing system law) on a
           state election ballot.


    Another project that state CCs are proposing are independent
    redistricting commissions which are non-partisan or bi-partisan.

    Laws to reduce the influence of commercial lobbyists on government
    officials include measures such banning gifts, travel, sports and
    entertainment tickets from lobbyists. Better disclosure laws regarding
    campaign contributions, contributions from 3rd parties known as 527
    groups, limitations on campaign contributions, bans on how candidates
    can use money collected in their respective campaigns, disclosures by
    candidates using personal funds in their campaigns..

    One variation from Common Cause’s main issues was Texas which was
    focused on the tax reform package in 2004 when the legislature was
    struggling to find acceptable solutions for financing public schools. They
    worked to ensure tax fairness and supported several tax measures for
    inclusion in the package.

    PAR and their recommendations for change in Louisiana

            A PAR White Paper from 2003 (http://www.la-
    par.org/Publications/PDF/whiteethics.pdf) lists their recommendations on
    pages 2 and 3. A few of the publications cited on their website indicate
    newspapers’ interests and PAR comments as well as quotes from
    attorneys, a few outside organizations, and pertinent officials. On the
    whole, Louisiana is one of the top states with a strong open records law.
    However, Jim Brandt, president of PAR, cited the problem of fighting off
    exemptions proposed every year in the legislature. There was some
    dispute about extending the open records law to cover all documents in
    the Governor’s office and the state Attorney General’s office, a dispute
    which has not been settled.

            Another “hot topic” has been the slush funds issue: even though
    the Governor eliminated the Urban and Rural funds. PAR argues that the
    goal was to rein pork barrel spending which often rewarded legislators
    who helped the Governor with legislative support. An attempt to have
    legislators file basic information as to what they were seeking and whom
    they were seeking it was nixed by the legislature. PAR’s stance is that
    some of these projects are not state responsibilities and that local
    governments should not depend on state government for monies which
    should be generated at the local level. Also, if the state is going to fund



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    them, there should be some sort of overall strategy, instead of having it
    scattered in the budget with no cohesive plan. Currently, there is no
    procedure for obtaining information about the project purpose, or the
    author of the funding proposal However, even Mr. Brandt admits that if is a
    small amount of money “ in the scheme of the overall budget but it’s
    important in symbolic terms and still significant in terms of money.”

            Former Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley has been
    criticized for taking work with ProtectingAmerica.org as a possible violation
    of state ethics laws. He has a job on the government relations team in the
    special business services group at Adams and Reese, LLP, which
    represents a number of insurance clients such as State Farm, USAA,
    Balboa Insurance Group and Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
    ProtectAmerica.org is a group created by Allstate Insurance to lobby for
    catastrophe funds on the state level. Mr Wooley claims that he is not
    violating the state law against transactions with the agency in which he
    held office. He says his work does not emcompass any appearances or
    dealings with the Insurance Commission. He says that it is legal for him to
    submit proposals related to insurance to the legislature since that is a
    separate branch of government. Most of his speaking and public relations
    work is done at national conventions where he is able to share his
    experience regarding insurance problems facing Louisiana and possible
    solutions. The catastrophe fund would cap the exposure that private
    insurance companies face on potential hurricane losses because the fund
    would be available to cover claims beyond a certain level, reducing the
    need for companies to buy reinsurance. Florida and California have
    established catastrophe funds. Louisiana law prohibits a former agency
    head or elected official from assisting another person for compensation in
    a transaction or an appearance in connection with a transaction involving
    the agency he served for at least 2 years. Such official is also forbidden
    from rendering any service on a contractual basis to or for such agency.
    So far, no one has filed a complaint with the Ethics Board against Wooley.




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