A House Republican on Tuesday filed a resolution to bring articles of impeachment against Attorney General Thurbert Baker, for his refusal to file a legal challenge to the new federal health care law – as directed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
State Rep. Mark Hatfield, sponsor of HR 1886, says Baker is bound by the state constitution to file legal at the request of the governor. Says the measure:
“By failing and refusing to perform his constitutional and statuatry duties, Attorney General Baker has abdicated his authority and has committed an act against the state of Georgia….
Attorney General Baker’s shameful abdication of his lawful duties shows him unfit to serve the state of Georgia in the position of attorney general.”
Hatfield said 30 other House members have also signed onto the bill of impeachment, all Republican. Baker is a Democratic candidate for governor.
With only nine days left in the legislative session, and a tremendous budget gap yet to be resolved, the Waycross lawmaker said whether the bill would move would depend on the wishes of the Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
Baker, in a telephone interview, said: “It’s very disappointing to see some members of the Legislature respond in a way that’s not beneficial to the state. This is not productive – it’s not going to solve any of the crushing problems we face – water, transportation and education.”
The 13-year attorney general said he was confident of his legal footing and said past court decisions have declared that the attorney general, who is elected statewide independently of the governor, has the authority to make legal decisions for the state.
“I’m willing to debate this impeachment matter should the situation require,” Baker said.
A spokesman in the attorney general’s office couldn’t say when the last statewide-elected official was impeached — if ever.
A majority of the 180 members of the House would have to approve what basically is an indictment – which, in political terms, is possible. A trial would be conducted in the Senate. Conviction would require a two-thirds vote in that chamber – unlikely, given that Democratic cooperation would be required.
But there’s another good reason Republicans might hesitate. The state Constitution declares that “in cases of impeachment, judgments shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit within this state or to receive a pension therefrom.”
So conviction could remove Baker, the only viable African-American in the race for governor, from that contest. And an attempt to impeach him could be portrayed as such.
Hatfield said he’s not concerned with the politics of the situation.
“It’s our position that the constitution is very clear, in [the] obligations that it places upon the attorney general to file suit on the request of the governor. He’s basically abrogated his constitutional responsibilities,” Hatfield said. “We feel very strongly that the attorney general has dropped the ball and failed to follow through on the mandates that are placed upon his office.”
The governor said today, as he has said earlier, that a decision to impeach should be left solely to the Legislature – he would not comment on it. Perdue said last week he would file – on his own authority – a lawsuit challenging the health care law passed earlier this month by Congress.
House Speaker David Ralston, significantly, is the second signer of HR 1824, a resolution that would direct the attorney general to file the lawsuit – but the resolution would lack the force of law. State Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, the lead sponsor, is a Republican candidate for governor.
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