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Committee begins review of political expenditures, contributions statute

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(The Center Square) – A New Hampshire legislative panel will examine various election-related bills and laws in the summer months and could bring recommendations forward in the season’s waning days.

Several House Election Law Committee members met on Tuesday to discuss recent bills. Since no quorum of the 18-member committee was present, formal votes were not taken.

Erin Hennessey, deputy secretary of state, spoke with the committee about a task on her list this summer – proposing statutory amendments to Chapter 664, which pertains to political expenditures and contributions.

The anticipated revisions are in response to several pieces of legislation, including House Bill 195, which addresses political advocacy organizations. HB195 passed both chambers of the Legislature this spring.

In her discussion with the committee, Hennessey discussed several proposed wordsmithing changes to Chapter 664 designed to clear up ambiguity.

Regarding campaign finance and reporting cycles, Hennessey said she is proposing hard-and-fast dates, starting with the eighth day after the prior election and ending on the seventh day after the given election has been completed.

“At some point, there needs to be a cutoff between when one election cycle ends and when the next one begins,” Hennessey said.

The delineation in dates, she said, is vital so candidates’ surplus and deficit campaign funds can be properly accounted for in a given election cycle.

“I just tried to make it as simple as possible,” she said. “The election cycle is a two-year cycle.”

Speaking to the rationale of extending the window to a week after an actual election, Hennessey said, “It just gives somebody a window to clean up their books and report everything.”

Other preliminary changes that could be incorporated into Chapter 664 include revised reporting requirements, with delineations between specific candidates and political committees. Each has its schedule for furnishing information to state election officials.

Hennessey said her work on Chapter 664 is underway and will be subject to further recommended amendments in the next month.

She said she tentatively plans to submit a complete list of recommended changes to the committee by late July.

“It’s a lot of information,” Hennessey said. “It’s not an easy task to go through all of this.”

But, she said, the revisions and clarifying language are essential for election cycles in the long road ahead.

“I can understand a lot of the frustration and why we get calls to the office,” Hennessey said, pointing to ambiguity in the current statute.

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