May 8 2012
I’m not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the chairman (Sen. Larry Martin R-Pickens) was gracious enough to allow me to address the committee. Generally, testimony is not heard at the full committee level. Here’s what I said:
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee I want to thank you for this special meeting to consider s.1512. As I said on the floor last week, this bill was a quick reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling, causing the disenfranchisement of nearly 200 candidates Democrats and Republicans alike. I wanted to drop a bill in the hopper, generate a debate, and get first reading since the time frame is so short. I am confident the process will produce a workable solution.
These districts belong to the people. On June 12, the Democrats and Republicans across this state will decide their respective nominees, and in November the voters will decide who they want to represent them.
The fallout of the Supreme Court’s ruling has eliminated nearly 200 candidates, all challengers. We have two sets of rules. Current legislators are required to file the statement of economic interest by April 15th each year. If we are late, we simply pay a fine, a slap on the wrist.
First time candidates, however, must file the same statement with a deadline 15 days earlier than ours. If they are a second late, they are disqualified. We get a slap on the wrist, they get the death penalty. That’s just wrong.
Some are accusing the General Assembly of purposefully setting up roadblocks to protect opponents and some say it wasn’t intentional. Personally, I was unaware of the disparity until last week. I think a blame game at this point is irrelevant and should wait until next session when a permanent fix can be constructed. Let’s put that discussion on hold and fix the problem before us as time is not on our side.
I ask that the Judiciary Committee take s.1512 and amend it as you see fit. This committee’s membership and staff consists of some of our State’s sharpest legal minds and I am confident y’all can find a way to thread is needle.
If we don’t act quickly, there are nearly 200 legislative districts in which their voters will not have a choice.