CHARLESTON – The House of Delegates has passed a bill that would make permanent the public financing program used in the 2012 Supreme Court election.

In a 70-29 vote on April 3, the House voted to adopt HB 2805, which will now be sent to the Senate. April 3, the 50th day of the current session, was the final day for a bill on its third reading to be considered by the chamber in which it was introduced. The House passed 32 bills in its morning session.

The bill is sponsored by Del. Tim Manchin and co-sponsored by delegates Tim Miley, John N. Ellem, Patrick Lane, Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Mike Manypenny, Nancy Guthrie, Michael Caputo, Doug Reynolds, Harry Keith White and Stephen Skinner.

The public financing pilot program was used by now-Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry during his 2012 campaign. He was the only candidate in that race who elected to use the program.

Loughry received $350,000 for his campaign through the program.

Of the 29 who voted against the bill, 28 were Republican. The only Democrat who voted against it was Richard Iaquinta of Harrison County.

Republican Joshua Nelson did not vote.

In September, the state Supreme Court denied Loughry’s writ seeking to force the State Election Commission to provide his campaign with matching funds.

The matching funds provision was designed to help candidates who were being outspent by opponents who were not taking part in the program.

Loughry filed his writ of mandamus on July 30, arguing that the SEC “failed to carry out the unambiguous duty” imposed under the program.

In the petition, Loughry argued that the commission violated the statutory command of West Virginia code that requires the commission to authorize the release of funds once a determination was made that the conditions for a release was met.

The state Supreme Court explained in a 5-0 ruling that the question was not only whether the SEC had a statutory duty to authorize the release of matching funds, but whether the funds provision violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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