Sunday, April 19, 2015

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan Secures First Amendment Win in Arizona Legislature

New definition of political committee protects freedom of speech
Phoenix – While Arizona’s 52nd legislature wrapped up business with a number of 
noteworthy accomplishments, perhaps none will have more of an impact on our system 
of elections than HB2649.  The legislation signed by the Governor this week protects 
individuals who come together to simply express their First Amendment rights from 
burdensome government regulation.
The new law comes in response to a federal court ruling that Arizona’s definition of a political committee was “vague, overbroad and consequently unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.”
In 2011, Dina Galassini, a Fountain Hills resident, was ordered by the Town to register as a political committee after organizing a protest opposing a local bond measure.  After nearly three years of litigation, the court ruled in Ms. Galassini’s favor and rendered the state’s campaign finance law unenforceable.  Without a legal definition on the books, the Secretary of State’s office has not had the ability to adjudicate campaign finance complaints under its jurisdiction since late last year.
The new definition specifies an association or combination of individuals do not qualify as a political committee unless they raise or spend at least $500, and is organized for the primary purpose of influencing the outcome of an election.
“This is a great win for the First Amendment and people who simply want to publicly voice their opinion on any political issue,” said Secretary Reagan.  “I’m extremely pleased our team was successful in averting a crisis in campaign finance law and our entire election process.”
“Similar to our effort to modernize the Secretary of State’s office in its entirety, I will lead the charge to update and improve our campaign finance laws,” continued the Reagan.  “Over the summer, we will bring together a group of election administrators and stakeholders to thoroughly review the relevant statutes and develop a package of legislation that modernizes our campaign finance laws for the 2016 legislative session.” 
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