Campaign finance bill inspires a Senate drama STATE HOUSE REPORT

March 12, 1993|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Staff Writer

It seemed an innocuous enough measure, so why all the fuss?

Senate Bill 44 would require candidates who currently file campaign finance reports with the state board of elections in Annapolis to leave a copy at their local board as well.

Understand that the 47 senators routinely vote on bills without paying all that much attention to the specifics, trusting that details have been dealt with in committee. Only a few controversial measures get the full attention of a floor debate.

But when the finance report bill came to the floor this week, senators were jumping up and down like jacks-in-the-box with questions and objections, some sounding as if the burden the measure proposed was immorally onerous. Legislative pages scurried about the chamber handing out proposed amendments.

"There is no better way to get the attention of the senators than with a bill on election laws," Sen. Michael J. Collins, D-Baltimore County, explained. "After all, this is something that affects every one of them."

Senate Bill 44 was designed to make it easier for constituents and news reporters in the candidates' home districts to see the finance reports. The legislation is backed by Common Cause, the public interest lobby, and it has attracted attention in the Maryland Senate before.

For several years, similar bills passed the House but died in the Senate. Last year, the legislation started in the Senate, where it was killed by the Economic and Environ-mental Affairs Committee.

This year, despite a negative recommendation from the subcommittee that deals with election laws, the full committee gave the bill a favorable report. As chairman of the subcommittee, Senator Collins was the floor leader for the bill.

Once the debate was joined, his main opponent was Sen. John A. Cade, the Anne Arundel County Republican whose sharp tongue often shreds opposing arguments.

After various parliamentary maneuvers, Mr. Cade settled on an amendment Tuesday that would have required candidates to file extra copies of the reports with the state election board. The state board would then send the copies to the local boards.

"We shouldn't have to be running all around the state filing these things," Mr. Cade complained. "This amendment would give the state bureaucrats something to do between elections."

Mr. Collins replied that there was no need to run around the state. "Most of us mail these copies to the state board, so it is simply a matter of mailing another copy to our local board," he said. "I think we can all afford a 29 cent stamp."

Senator Collins was victorious, and the amendment was

defeated 26 to 18.

Yesterday, senators gave final approval to Senate Bill 44, voting 35 to 10. And among those joining Mr. Cade in opposition was none other than Sen. Michael J. Collins.

"I think it's a terrible bill. The only people who care about these reports are Common Cause and the press, and as far as I'm concerned they can drive to Annapolis and look at them," Senator Collins said.

"I voted against it in the subcommittee and in the full committee. But when it passed, it was up to me as subcommittee chairman to manage it on the floor."

The measure now goes to the House, where the only thing certain is that it won't slip through unnoticed.

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