By Michelle Sutherland
Business Senator Kevin Herrera has assured The Reporter that the plans to table a Campaign Finance Bill to parliament are still in the pipeline as final touches are being made prior to its introduction.
In fact, Herrera indicated that just last week he held a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss getting the process back on track. He went on to say that it is their intention to introduce the bill and, therefore, sees it as a plus that the bill has already been drafted. All that’s left now, according to Herrera, is to go through the procedures to get it to the floor.
“We haven’t done a whole lot on it since we were doing the rounds and the presentations some months back but we do intend to get it back on track,” said Herrera.
“Of course, there is a process that we have to go through before we get it on the floor, so we have to outline what that process is, look at the Standing Orders very closely, and see how well we can follow the requirements. While there is no timeframe, I must mention that there are several steps that you have to go through before you can introduce a private bill like that, so there are several things to do.”
When asked whether he feels that the Senate probe into the Definitive Agreement would hinder the tabling of the Campaign Finance Bill, Herrera opined that he does not see that being an issue. According to the senator, the probe and the bill are two completely different processes and as such, would not affect each other.
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry developed the draft legislation, one of two drafts that are known to be in circulation. If passed into law, the bill will change the way that political campaigns are financed in Belize. The draft legislation seeks to establish a National Campaign Fund, which would be managed by the Elections and Boundaries Department.
The money in the fund will be distributed to candidates within 180 days after elections as a way of reimbursing them for finances spent in their election campaign. It is hoped that the private Bill will be introduced in the Senate before 2025.
At a recent sitting of the Senate, Union Senator Luke Martinez called on the Upper House to take the requisite measures to see the Campaign Finance Bill introduced.
Martinez, speaking on the Senate Motion to trigger the Senate Enquiry into the much-talked-about Definitive Agreement, said, “Run the campaign finance legislation, leader of government business…run the campaign finance legislation, because when we start with this inquiry, we find out indeed who has set up their retirement plan and who is setting up their retirement plan.”