The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 22, 2014

Campaign advertising bill narrowly escapes committee

CHARLESTON — The House Committee on the Judiciary erupted into clamor and discord as Delegate Tim Manchin, the committee chair, overrode cries of “point of order!” to call for a vote on a bill that would require candidates to reveal the sources of funding for campaign advertising.

On a narrow 12-11 roll call vote, the legislation will move to the House floor.

The bill would also require corporations to be identified as contributors to political advertising, including television, radio and mass mailings. Also, the measure would require that in advertising buys that aggregate more than $10,000, the top five contributors must be identified.

The committee’s counsel said the intent of the bill is to inform the public “who is contributing large amounts of  funds to political advertising.”

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations the right of free speech in regard to political contributions, commonly called the Citizens United decision.

Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, said he thought the bill “approached the Constitutional line.”

Fellow Republicans, Kelly Sobonya and John McCuskey, both of Kanawha County, raised their hands for further questions, and as Manchin recognized the motion to call for the question, began to speak loudly, “I have a question,” and “point of order.” Manchin raised neither his voice nor his eyes as he took the roll-call vote.

Sobonya and McCuskey did not hide their displeasure as their names were called, and they loudly voted “no!” Sobonya slamming a folder on the table as she voted.

In other action, a bill that was believed dead in committee was resurrected out of the Senate’s Health and Human Resources Committee. The Healthy Children and Healthy Communities Act would help communities use public buildings after-hours for exercise-related activities, and would call for the Division of Highways to look at ways to improve projects to include bicycling or walking venues.

House Judiciary moved out of committee a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, unless the health of the mother is at risk. The bill caused turmoil in the House last week when Republican members tried to discharge the bill from committee. When that move was defeated, a number of robo-calls went out over the state, calling those who voted on the procedural issue “baby-killers.”

Pro-life Democrats were upset, with Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, voicing his displeasure at the accusation that he was not in favor of the bill. Boggs said no one approached him to talk about the bill.

Arizona’s law with similar language was recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.  

The bill moves to the House floor on Monday.

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