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Union Senator to Senate: 'Run Campaign Finance Bill'

The Senator representing the unions, Hon. Luis Luke Martinez, told the Senate on Monday that the Upper House needs to move forward with the Campaign Finance legislation.

Martinez, speaking on the Senate Motion to trigger the Senate Enquiry into the much-talked-about Definitive Agreement, and more specifically, the corruption pull it can have, 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.”

On January 26th this year, The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) met with the media to present their proposed bill to regulate campaign financing, an amendment to the Representation of the Peoples Act.

At the time, BCCI President Marcello Blake had explained that the business community—which has a representative in the Senate—would be ready to present the Bill via the Business Senator.

We don’t have a timeline at the moment; it will have to go through the process as was highlighted earlier. There is a process for us to be able to take it, via the senate, to the senate’s private bill option … So it really is incumbent on it getting to the senate and for the vote to actually occur.”

Blake was speaking about using the provision in the Standing Orders of the Senate that allows any member of the Senate to present a Bill, and this includes the social partner senators and the Opposition’s representatives. However, Martinez’s comment in the Senate was not directed at Business Senator Kevin Herrera but rather at Senator Eamon Courtenay, the leader of government business.

Additionally, while Blake did not give any timeline when he spoke with the media in January, it is noteworthy that close to seven months have passed, and there has been no formal indication that any of the social partner senators has taken steps to present it to Parliament. Instead, the four senators have moved ahead with the inquiry into the Portico Definitive Agreement.

On January 23rd, the government released the Medium-Term Development Strategy (MTDS) that included campaign finance reform. However, Blake did express concern regarding the timeline proposed in the MTDS.

“It is concerning for us to see that, in fact, in the Medium-Term Development Strategy 2022 to 2026, that was launched on Monday, this [campaign finance reform] is actually set out to be completed around 2026…why would it need to take that long if it, in fact, was a part of their hundred-day promise?” Blake asked earlier this year.

In 2020, former Senate President Darrell Bradley had circulated a draft Campaign Finance Bill which he called Political Parties (Registration and Financial Reporting) [draft] Act 2020. That document, among other things, addressed contributions and expenditures, setting limits on monetary contributions to individual candidates and also to political parties. It also called for the disclosure of contributors.

According to proponents of campaign finance reform, the proposed legislation would draw close attention to donors and campaign spending, regulating campaign financing and ultimately requiring full transparency from politicians and their financiers.

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