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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Senate Concerned About $5,000 Limit On PAC Contributors

As lawmakers worked toward adjournment, they turned their focus again to campaign finance reform, public records, and other issues.

The Senate did not agree with a House bill that limits contributions to political action committees.

Campaign finance reform bogged down the Senate in hours of debate. Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, grilled Government Operations Committee Chairwoman Jeannette White, who was reporting the bill. And his lengthy interrogation of his fellow Windham County Democrat appeared to anger his colleagues.

Baruth tried to shut off Galbraith’s questioning, citing a rule prohibiting debate that had grown tedious or superfluous.

“And I would rest my motion on the word ‘tediously,’ which means tiresome because of length or dullness,” he said. “And my motion – and the reason why I believe it to be air-tight – is that I believe the senator has spoken tediously.”

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott ruled that the definition of when debate gets to the point of tedium seemed subjective, and he allowed Galbraith to continue.

Senators then defeated Galbraith’s effort to cap campaign contributions that business owners can give when they donate both in their own names and those of the businesses they own.

The Senate also did not agree with the House version of the campaign finance bill that limits contributions that individuals can make to political action committees to $5,000 per election cycle.

On that point, Galbraith prevailed. He argued the contribution limit would invite a federal lawsuit.

“A legal case could cost several million dollars on our side. If we lose, we may end up as I think in the past, paying the fees of the winning side,” he said.

The Senate ended up naming a conference committee to work out the differences with the House on the campaign finance bill. Senators also did not agree with an open records bill that has passed both chambers, but was modified by the House.