Bills improving access to lobbying disclosure and campaign finance data, and creating an online voter registration system, were unanimously approved today by the Senate. The three bills mark another major step forward in Senate Republican efforts to promote transparency and efficiency in state government.
The bills, sponsored by President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) and State Government Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-13), now move to the House for consideration.
Senate Bill 308 (Scarnati) will require lobbyists and principals to register and report expenditures electronically, making this information available quicker and more accurately. Many reports are still filed on paper; those reports must be entered manually. SB 308 also requires the Department of State to post the information on its public website within a week.
“In the past, it has often taken months after lobbyist disclosure documents were completed and filed before the information was posted on the department’s website,” Senator Scarnati said. “Publishing all of this information on the Internet in a timely manner is an important part of improving transparency in state government.”
Under Senate Bill 120 (Pileggi), all campaign finance reports filed with the Department of State must be submitted electronically. Only about 35 percent of reports are currently filed electronically. SB 120 also requires any candidate committee or PAC which raises or spends $10,000 or more in a calendar year to file additional reports. Fees for late filing are increased from a maximum of $250 to a maximum of $500.
“This bill reflects our ongoing commitment to reform, transparency and accountability,” Senator Pileggi said. “Electronic filing also provides the additional benefits of improving accuracy and cutting costs. The majority of states already require electronic filing of campaign finance information, and we should do the same.”
Senate Bill 37 (Smucker) will allow residents to register to vote online through a system developed by the Department of State. About 16 other states now provide online voter registration as an option. Most have reported significant cost savings as a result.
The Department of State has spent more than a year preparing to implement the online voter registration system by working on technical and security-related issues.
“The idea is to make it easier to register to vote and to increase participation in voting,” Senator Smucker said. “This will also modernize the registration process and cut costs for counties. It’s been proven to work in other states, and the time is right for Pennsylvania to join them.”