A legislative committee is poised this week to consider the purchase of a new campaign finance filing system to allow for electronic uploads and more flexible search tools for the public. State Representative Jana Della Rosa crafted the appropriation measure for the purchase of a $750,000 of a new electronic filing system.
“It’s not any additional information than what people are currently required to submit but right now it’s very difficult for the public to get the information. I’m trying to get everyone to report to an online system so it’s searchable, we have one complete database and anybody that wants to know anything about campaign finance reports can know whatever they want to know,” the Republican from Rogers told KUAR.
“This is something that I have yet to find anybody outside of these marble walls that does not want the money spent on this,” said Della Rosa while walking through the state Capitol. “Public disclosure is in the system technically, we’re providing the information to the public but the public can’t really get to it. It’s almost like it’s a token gesture.”
The fiscal session measure would fund the new campaign report filing system but not require lawmakers use it, leaving paper copies and unsearchable PDFs as options. Rep. Della Rosa said she’ll push to make use of the system mandatory in the 2017 regular legislative session. A similar bill failed last year in the House 48-33.
During debate on the House floor in 2015 several legislators, including Rep. Dave Wallace (R-Leachville) and Rep. Mickey Hates (Hot Springs) argued that securing quality internet access and basic computer equipment was too onerous a burden.
Democratic State Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock supported Rep. Della Rosa’s bill last year and backs it this time around too. He doesn’t think the argument that some legislators face technological barriers holds up.
“Even if they don’t at their homes I can promise there’s some place in their district that does. You don’t need tons of bandwidth to a file a report like this. There’s no problem filing a report like this,” said Tucker.
“This would create a way where you could search for a donor, a PAC, or a candidate. It achieves the purpose of disclosure laws.”