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Campaign finance bill heads to full Senate

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A bill that would make the state Supreme Court's campaign finance pilot program a permanent project is on its way to the full Senate.

The bill, which would eliminate the matching funds provision that was in the original pilot program, will go back to the House to approve changes made to the bill if it first passes through the Senate.

One candidate — newly elected state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry — participated in the state Supreme Court's pilot project last year.

The bill also would limit the contribution amounts, remove the enhanced civil penalty for reporting requirements and also allow funds to be invested. 

The bill notes that in the 2012 election, state Supreme Court candidates raised a total of $3.7 million, a number steadily increasing from 2000-2008.  

"As spending by candidates and independent parties increases, so does the perception that contributors and interested third parties hold too much influence over the judicial process," the bill states.  

Participating candidates can collect contributions in aggregate from $35,000 to $50,000. Qualifying contributions in excess of $50,000 will be sent to the State Election Commission for deposit in the fund, according to the bill.

For the general election, a certified candidate would receive up to $525,000 in a contested election and $35,000 in an uncontested race.