Kentucky Politics

Kentucky lawmakers would only have to update the public about their campaign finances once a year during non-election years, instead of quarterly, under a bill that passed a legislative committee on Thursday.

The measure was one of a slew of elections-related bills that try to bolster election security, reduce campaign finance reporting and outlaw candidates from paying to transport voters to the polls. All of the measures passed out of committees Thursday.

Republican Rep. Matthew Koch of Paris sponsored House Bill 740, which would reduce campaign finance reporting for politicians during non-election years. Right now, they need to report four times per year, even in non-election years, but that would move to only once a year.

“We’re just saying file one report in December, because you’re not out there, this is not a full time position for us right? I’m a farmer, I’m out there, I’m farming,” Koch said.

John Steffen, the director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said his agency opposes the change, saying it’s an issue of transparency and more reporting is better for accountability.  

“I think the sooner it’s out there, the better for the public,” he said.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Keturah Herron, a new lawmaker who recently won a special election, voted against the bill, but still said the process needs to be streamlined.

“I think the finance reporting was probably my biggest headache,” Herron said.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said the reporting system itself is a mess and he would support even more strict reporting requirements if they could make it easier for candidates to use. 

Kentucky candidates have had to file their campaign finance reports electronically since 2019, a reform officials hoped would speed up the process and quickly provide information about who donates to political campaigns.

But the rollout has been plagued with problems, including candidates and committees filing reports late and technical issues with the online tool.

Lawmakers advanced other elections-related bills in the legislature on Thursday.

House Bill 330 would prevent political candidates or their campaigns from paying to transport voters to the polls. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Ed Massey of Hebron, said campaigns can still transport voters, and reimburse groups for things like gas, they just can’t pay them to do it. 

“It’s not talking about declining people that are actual voters from voting, we want them to go to the polls and cast their vote,” Massey said. “We are talking about people manipulating the system to try and get an unfair advantage, using money to do so.”

Senate Bill 216, sponsored by Republican Sen. Robby Mills of Henderson, prohibits voting equipment from connecting to the internet, even though none of Kentucky’s voting machines do, and requires the equipment be under video surveillance. 

“It makes some good changes that increases election security in our state,” Mills said.

All of the measures passed the first hurdle of the legislative process on Thursday and will now be considered in the full House or Senate.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.