Several campaign finance issues on Sarasota ballot

11/05/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Tomorrow there will be municipal elections throughout the bay area, including City Council races in St. Petersburg. In Sarasota, four separate amendments that all deal with elections and campaign reform will be decided.

Kelly Kirschner was part of a Charter Review Committee last year; the panel discussed several of these issues. But it didn’t appear as if the proposals were gaining any traction. Then Kirschner was elected to the Sarasota City Commission, and he used his new power to influence three of his colleagues to put the measures up for a vote tomorrow.

WMNF spoke with Commissioner Kelly Kirschner today to discuss the proposals. Kirschner supports several campaign finance reform initiatives including one that would reduce the maximum contribution to City Commission candidates from $500 to $200.

Taking a somewhat different perspective on the campaign finance issues is Eric Robinson is the Chairman of the Republican Party in Sarasota. He’s against reducing individual campaign contributions from $500 to $200. He calls that an incumbent protection program, saying that since Sarasota County approved a similar proposal, no Sarasota County Commissioner has faced an opponent in their re-election campaign.

Robinson disputes Kirshcner’s analysis on how banning businesses from contributing to political campaigns will be beneficial to the local electorate. He says since the law doesn’t affect Political Action Committees (PACs), or organizations like his; it will create less transparency in campaign contributions, not more, he says.

Other issues on the ballot include a proposal for Sarasota to adopt Instant Run-off Voting in local elections, and an alternative minimum wage law, based on businesses with more than 50 employees or that receive a subsidy from the city, to pay employees a higher minimum wage.

In both the city and county of Sarasota, there are separate ordinances that would require a supermajority of commissioners to adopt amendments to Comprehensive Plans.

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