The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would make permanent a public campaign financing program for State Supreme Court candidates.
The program gives Supreme Court candidates public money to fund their campaigns, which allows them to avoid taking donations from individuals or organizations that could create a conflict of interest in the future.
The bill did not pass with unanimous consent in the committee, but did receive bipartisan support.
Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Putnam, urged his fellow members to support the bill.
“As a lawyer, there’s nothing more worrisome than to stand up in front of a judge and be concerned about whether or not the lawyer on the other side of you donated to that judge’s campaign,” he said.
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said the bill is a “great first step” to dealing with issues of judicial independence in the state.
But he said lawmakers also should take steps to prevent outside groups from coming into the state and donating money to Supreme Court candidates without any requirements to divulge those donations.
Skinner said those donors potentially could have cases before the high court.
House Bill 2805 now will go before the House Finance Committee before it can reach a full floor vote.