- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - As the session wound into the early hours of Saturday, the Senate adopted a measure to reinsert criminal penalties that were left out of a sweeping campaign finance bill signed earlier this session by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

The measure’s backers, including state election director Eric Spencer and Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, initially left out the provisions from the campaign finance rewrite, saying they would add them back next year, but Driggs reversed course after a public outcry and came back with an amendment that added back several criminal penalties.

Among them is a provision that makes it illegal for people to make political contributions in the name of another person and a provision that prevents candidates from making contributions to one another.

The bill also moves up the enactment date from the beginning of 2017 to the general election in November.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed House Bill 2297 on a 17-11 vote Saturday. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk beside a second measure that borrowed language from the same campaign finance rewrite to relax rules on anonymous political spending ahead of the August primary election.

That language increases the influence of dark money groups generally defined as tax-exempt organizations that spend money on elections and do not report their donors.

The amendment on House Bill 2296 cedes regulation of dark money and other nonprofit groups to the IRS, essentially doubling the amount these groups can spend on ballot measures.

It also lets nonprofit groups spend more money influencing elections without having to reveal donors.

The GOP-controlled House passed the proposal on a 31-25 vote Friday confirming an amendment added in the Senate.

Voters looking to overturn the campaign finance rewrite would now have to file two referendums to have the language overturned in two sections of law.

Democrats railed against the measure late Friday, calling the effort a slight against voters.

“What it does is it undermines the potential of the voters to have their say,” said Rep. Ken Clark of Phoenix.

Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, said he wanted the enactment date moved up so the language can be used before the upcoming elections.

Other Republicans say the proposal is really about stopping overreach by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, a state agency that allows candidates to get public funding if they agree not to take private donations.

“They invent authority as they go claiming this is what the voters meant,” said Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.

Tom Collins, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the commission is working within its parameters to demand that organizations file campaign reports if they spend a majority of their funding to influence elections.

“Why would we have to change the law if we are doing something outside the bounds of the law? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The proposal could also impact ballot initiatives in the November election, which is likely to include a vote on the legalization for recreational marijuana and could include a measure that increases the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

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