Greenwald Tries To Save 'Clean Elections' Measure

CourierPostOnline — Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON — In an attempt to save a reform bill from dying, a primary sponsor of a measure piloting a program for publicly funded elections wrote a letter Friday to one main critic, conceding the bill's biggest sticking point.

Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, D-Voorhees, said in a letter to Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence, Mercer County, he was "disappointed" the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released the "clean elections" bill Thursday without recommendation for passage because the measure did not include primary elections.

"Clean elections" attempt to level the campaign playing field by prohibiting traditional campaign contributions from special interests.

The program provides public financing to candidates who qualify by collecting a certain amount of smaller donations from residents of their district.

An aide of Turner's said the senator was out of town and had not seen the letter, but Senate Democrats spokesman Jim Manion said the caucus welcomes the Assembly being open to adding primaries and will discuss the possibility of adding the extra measure.

As currently written, the bill would have to be signed into law by March 9 because that's the deadline for legislative leaders to select the three legislative districts for the pilot project.

Frederick Herrmann, executive director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission, said while his agency supports clean elections, it would be "difficult, if not impossible" to administer the amendment for the 2007 primaries.

"We are under a very tight time schedule just to get this for the general election.... To add the primary changes the whole nature of the program at a very, very late date," Herrmann said.

An independent Citizen's Clean Elections Commission a year ago recommended primaries be included in the legislation, but that provision was not included in the version of the bill approved by the Assembly.

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