As I noted previously, Kentucky has almost its entire judiciary on the ballot in 2014, including 5 of the state supreme court’s 7 members. It is this, plus the view of judicial elections in other states and concern over the impact Citizens United has had on elections, that has prompted several bills in the last few years to create a public financing system for judicial elections in the state.
First, some background.
The first attempt at a Kentucky “clean judicial elections” fund was in 2006. HB 682 of that year covered all judicial elections for trial and appellate courts. It met with approval in the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and was floor amended to permit the Supreme Court to require members of the Kentucky Bar Association to submit an annual fixed amount not to exceed $25 to be dedicated to the clean judicial elections fund. It was then sent to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee where it died.
From 2006 to 2010 there were no indications the bill was reintroduced. In 2011, HB 21 was put forward with much (if not all) the same language of the 2006 bill. This time it failed to advance in the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.
2012 saw two iterations: HB 47 (which was withdrawn almost the day it was introduced) and HB 230. The major difference: HB 47 would have covered all judicial races (like HB 682 of 2006 had) while HB 230 is focused only on Supreme Court races. While initially sent back to the House Elections committee, HB 230 was re-assigned two weeks after introduction to the House Judiciary Committee.
The video below is from two hearings before the House Judiciary Committee: the informational hearing held February 29 and the actual committee vote held March 14, where the committee voted 9 to 7 along party lines (all Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed) to advance the bill.