NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While not considered a top priority for lawmakers this legislative session, several bills introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly seek to address campaign finance and voting hours in different ways.
Sen. Frank Niceley (R—Strawberry Plains) has introduced a campaign finance bill in the legislature that would limit contributions from people who are not Tennessee residents. The bill would cap out-of-state donations to 30% of the total contributions.
The bill specifies that the contributions include those received by a candidate or a political campaign committee.
So far, there have not been many elections-related bills filed in the General Assembly. Another one is from Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R—Arlington), which extends the time off an employee is guaranteed in order to vote on Election Day. His bill makes it four hours instead of three.
The only other elections-related bill introduced in the General Assembly so far is SB0203 by Sen. Page Walley (R—Savannah). This bill would allow churches and other religious organizations to be exempt from the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 1980 if they choose to spend money supporting or opposing “measures related to questions of public or private morality,” which include but are not limited to “alcohol, drugs, abortion, marriage or gambling.”
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The measure would open the door for political donations for all religious organizations, if passed. But questions remain as to whether or not the bill would contradict federal law on political speech from churches and other religious organizations.
Section 501(c)(3) provides for the exemption from federal income tax of organizations organized and operated exclusively for charitable or educational purposes,” a memo on the subject from the IRS states, “no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation…and which does not participate in, or intervene in…any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
Section 501(c)(3) – Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc. (From IRS)
As Walley’s bill is written, this exemption would only apply if churches or religious organizations want to support or oppose issues rather than candidates.