Raleigh, N.C. — The House Elections Committee voted Wednesday to eliminate public matching funds for state political campaigns.
House Bill 297 now goes to the full House.
Sponsor Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said the legislation is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down similar matching funds in Arizona. A divided court rejected that state’s system of providing additional funding to publicly funded candidates when they face big-spending opponents or opposition groups.
North Carolina is one of four states – Maine, New Mexico and Wisconsin are the others – with matching funds that also are triggered when a privately funded candidate or a special-interest group reaches a specific contribution or spending level.
Lewis said North Carolina hasn't provided any matching funds in months, and $6.2 million remains in an account that also provides public financing of judicial campaigns.
The committee also approved a bill that requires local referendums to be held only on the same day as North Carolina's primary or general elections or during a municipal election. The only exceptions are for recall elections or a vote dealing with public health or safety.
Sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, said the House passed the bill last session, but it died in the Senate.
"When an issue is put before the public to vote on, it (should be) put on at such a time when the majority of the electorate is available to vote on it," Warren said.
The average voter turnout at 43 special elections in the last three years was less than 12 percent, he said.