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Lawmakers agree to increase campaign contribution limits but question procedures

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(The Center Square) – An Arkansas legislative subcommittee approved a new rule to increase campaign contribution limits up to $3,300.

Previously, the contribution limit was $2,900.

Certain contribution limits are eligible for adjusting for inflation every two years based on the change in the cost of living under the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The rule changes approved Thursday by the Administrative Rules subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council reflect the changes announced by the Federal Election Commission back in February, which raised contribution limits made by persons to candidates to $3,300 and contributions made by persons to national party committees to $41,300 per calendar year.

Not every state goes through a rulemaking process to adopt FEC changes.

Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, questioned if Arkansas’ process for updating campaign contribution limits was necessary.

“Moving forward – because we do this every two years, right? – Is there a better way to do this, whether it’s an emergency rule or what have you? Because what ends up happening inevitably every two years is the FEC will put out a new limit for federal campaigns and then it takes us six or seven months to go through the rule process to update that and so what you end up with, a campaign is 24 months, so about 30% of the campaign you have a two-chaired system where you have one limit for federal campaigns and you have a different limit altogether for state campaigns. Have you given any thought to how we might be able to improve this process, maybe in the next session, so we don’t have that issue every two years?” Ray asked.

Arkansas Ethics Commission Director Graham Sloan said the process differed when the General Assembly passed a bill to amend it.

“For whatever reason that wasn’t working and y’all decided to go the rulemaking process,” Sloan said. “I know Arizona for one, they just authorize their ethics commission to publish the new number and so I don’t know that we need to go through rule-making to put that number out there. The FEC numbers came out February 2 and we had to get governor’s approval for rulemaking, that took two months and then there’s a 30 day comment period as a part of the rulemaking so our part of it took about two months.”

Ray suggested the legislature make a change next session so adjusting campaign contribution limits to reflect the FEC numbers didn’t go through the rulemaking process. Sloan said that would save time and money for the Ethics Commission.

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