Archive for the ‘Don Balfour’ Category

Jeff Mullis moves into his new quarters — as Senate Rules chairman, we think

At 4:40 p.m. Monday, Jeff Mullis was slouched in a red chair outside chambers, in conversation with yours truly, when an aide brushed by to let him know that the letter containing his Senate leadership assignment had been sent out.

“What’s it say?” the senator from Chickamauga asked, pretending that his appointment as chairman of Senate Rules Committee wasn’t the most badly kept secret in the state Capitol.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis totes his object d'art to his new offices.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis totes his object d’art to his new offices.

With a reporter present, the aide refused to bite, and said the sealed news was waiting for him in his basement office. The committee assignments had been due out at 3 p.m., but had been delayed due to some last-minute tweaks – made to account for angry floor speeches from former Senate president pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan.

Both had expressed disappointment that their fellow senators, by adopting a new set of chamber rules, this morning returned much of Lt. Gov. Casey …

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Your daily jolt: A fix for unintended victims of Ga.’s illegal immigration law

State Rep. Dusty Hightower, R-Carrollton, this morning dropped legislation on behalf of Secretary of State Brian Kemp to unclog the processing of half-million professional licenses – unintended victims of Georgia’s illegal immigration statute.

HB 87, passed in 2011, currently requires all license applicants – from nurses to barbers to plumbers – to submit proof of citizenship before new or renewed licenses are granted.

Wait times for licenses have increased five-fold as a result, Kemp says.

HB 32 will only require applicants to submit proof of citizenship only once. A similar measure was attempted last year, but failed when it became wrapped into legislation that would have barred all undocumented students from public universities.

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Meanwhile, the state Senate’s newly configured Committee on Assignments today gets down to the business of doling out chairmanships and committee memberships. The biggest prize: Chairmanship of the Senate Rules Committee, through which all bills …

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Josh McKoon asks for AG investigation into Don Balfour

Tampa — State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who was the only dissenting vote on a legislative ethics panel that this month levied a $5,000 fine on Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, R-Snellville, said Wednesday he has asked Attorney General Sam Olens to consider a criminal investigation.

Olens, set to address the Republican National Convention this evening, confirmed receipt of McKoon’s request, but declined any further comment.

The Senate Ethics Committee faulted Balfour for billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

In a minority report, McKoon outlined why he thought Balfour was deserving of a harsher punishment. Read it here.

McKoon, a delegate at the Tampa said he sent Olens a copy of his minority report, plus a brief cover letter requesting the investigation.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with …

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Why Josh McKoon wanted tougher punishment for Don Balfour in ethics case

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the only dissenting vote on the Senate Ethics Committee last week in the matter of Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, has sent a copy of his “minority report” laying out his position for a harsher punishment.

Balfour was fined $5,000 and ordered to pay $300 and change in additional restitution. Read the entirety of McKoon’s report here. This appears to be the gist:

Without getting into the question of intent on the part of [Balfour], the facts are that false reports were filed with the Legislative Fiscal Office by [Balfour] and that [Balfour] received monies he was not entitled to under the law. The Committee decided it was sufficient to fine [Balfour], ask for further restitution to be paid and that the Audit Subcommittee be appointed and begin meeting.

The Minority [i.e., McKoon] reviewed the case of State Senator Roscoe Dean, who was censured by the State Senate in 1976 for similar offenses, namely filing false expense reports, including …

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Josh McKoon: Don Balfour ethics decision ‘undermines’ public confidence

Here’s the lede on the Don Balfour story by my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The Senate Ethics Committee voted Thursday to fine Sen. Don Balfour $5,000 and the Snellville Republican will also repay about $350 to the state.

Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

The decision isn’t sitting well with everyone. Here’s the statement that state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, the advocate for the $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers, posted on his Facebook page:

“Today the Senate Ethics Committee entered into a settlement with Sen. Don Balfour regarding the multiple ethics complaints which had been filed regarding the alleged abuse of per diem policy to include the filing of false reports and the failure to convene an Audit Subcommittee of the Senate Rules Committee in order to comply with …

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GOP challenger wants Don Balfour gone as rules chairman

Travis Bowden, one of two GOP challengers to state Sen. Don Balfour of Snellville, shows us where that race is headed. He wants Balfour’s Senate colleagues to dump him from his leadership position. From a press release this afternoon:

Don Balfour is Chairman on the Senate’s Rules Committee, a group of Senators that decides which bills can be voted on by the Georgia Senate. Balfour has recently come under scrutiny by the media and the Senate Ethics Committee for violating Georgia Reimbursement laws. There are several instances of Balfour filing expenses for regular Georgia State Senate business when he was out of town.

“Senator Balfour has been Rules Committee Chairman for ten years, but he has never created the Subcommittee that will review legislative expenses,” Bowden said. “It’s suspicious that Senator Balfour would submit these false reports knowing they would not be audited. Since Senator Balfour has violated Georgia law, the Senate itself is out of order and our …

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Your morning jolt: Local races will create climate for transportation sales tax vote

The qualifying period for candidates seeking a spot on the July 31 primary ballot began this morning.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has promised live updates here. My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin has a rolling blog going – plus an advance that focused on tea party ambitions:

[Debbie Dooley of Atlanta Tea Party Patriots] said a tea party candidate has already announced a challenge to state Sen. Jack Murphy, a Republican from Cumming and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The movement is also hopeful, she said, to have a serious challenger for state Sen. Don Balfour, a Republican from Snellville and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee….

Dooley said if former state Rep. Clay Cox, R-Lilburn, doesn’t qualify to run against Balfour, she will — reluctantly.

While candidates are ponying up qualifying fees in the Capitol, the watchdog Common Cause will lead tea partyists – and state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus – further down that frightful, liberal path to chaos this …

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Your morning jolt: The 2013 campaign season begins — for GOP chairmanship

The Republican world – at least the Georgia part of it – is headed down to Columbus today for its two-day state convention.

Former state senator Chip Pearson of Dawsonville

Former state senator Chip Pearson of Dawsonville

Delegates will be pointed to November and, in at least one case, beyond. Among the many fliers on their seats will be one from former state Sen. Chip Pearson of Dawsonville, announcing his candidacy for state party chairman in 2013.

He’s already got a website that includes this shout-out to the current term-limited chairman, Sue Everhart:

With your help, we will continue Sue Everhart’s proud tradition of grassroots leadership and build on her great successes. I want to hear your ideas on how we can build on the successes of the Georgia GOP and make our Party even stronger…

Pearson, who has spent the last year raising money for the party, will be emphasizing his loyalty to the grassroots rather than officialdom. “People don’t know that there’s a whole lot more of me in the party than there is in the …

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The strapped finances of Georgia’s Democratic party

If President Barack Obama intends to put Georgia in play this fall, he’ll have to write the entire check for the effort.

According to the March 31 disclosure filed by the Democratic Party of Georgia, the organization is barely keeping its head above water. It raised $140,966 over the last three months, and spent $133,312.

It has $149,095 in cash on hand. But the bottom line would be much more bleak, were it not for nearly $40,000 from state House Democrats, mostly in $2,000 checks.

Among the party’s expenditures was $10,000 paid to Tasso Knight, a retired union lobbyist, who served as lobbyist for the state party at the Capitol this year. The payment became part of an argument over finances among ranking Democratic leaders this winter.

Democrats have their main fund-raiser for the year on April 28. It will feature the Rev. Joe Lowery and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

By comparison, the Republican Party of Georgia had its main fundraiser during the reporting …

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Study of ethics doesn’t need outsiders, lawmakers say

Throughout this legislative session, which is about to come to an end, the topic of additional ethics legislation – specifically, a ban or cap on gifts that lawmakers can receive — has been the unwanted guest at the dinner party.

A guest who had already been shown the door – and this morning was kicked to the curb.

Expectations had already been reduced to a simple study committee contained in SR 1220, introduced by a lone sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus. From his legislation:

….there is created the Senate Study Committee on Georgia Ethics and Accountability to be composed of nine members to be appointed by the President of the Senate as follows: five members of the Senate and four members of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform. The President of the Senate shall designate one of the appointees to serve as chairperson of the committee. The chairperson shall call all meetings of the committee.

This morning, the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Don Balfour, …

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