Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 19, 2013

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for December 19, 2013

On December 19, 1777, General George Washington led his troops into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where he hoped to rest and refit his army.

During 1777, Patriot forces under General Washington suffered major defeats against the British at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown; Philadelphia, the capital of the United States, fell into British hands. The particularly severe winter of 1777-1778 proved to be a great trial for the American army, and of the 11,000 soldiers stationed at Valley Forge, hundreds died from disease. However, the suffering troops were held together by loyalty to the Patriot cause and to General Washington, who stayed with his men.

When Washington’s army marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778, the men were better disciplined and stronger in spirit than when they had entered.

In her youth, Mrs. GaPundit continually reminded her parents that the area in which she grew up, literally down the street from Valley Forge National Historic Park, was well known for causing frostbite.

On December 19, 1860, the Georgia General Assembly adopted Resolution 14, which read in part,

Resolved 4th. That, should any or all of the Southern States determine in the present emergency to withdraw from the Union and resume their sovereignty, it is the sense of this General Assembly that such seceding States should form a confederacy under a republican form of government; and to that end they should adopt the Constitution of the United States, so altered and amended as to suit the new state of affairs.

On December 19, 1998, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve two of four Articles of Impeachment against President Bill Clinton.

Article I was approved 228-206. Voting in favor were 223 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 200 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article II was defeated 229-205. Voting in favor were 200 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 200 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article III was approved 221-212. Voting in favor were 216 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Voting against were 199 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and one Independent.

Article IV was defeated 285-148. Voting in favor were 147 Republicans and one Democrat. Voting against were 203 Democrats, 81 Republicans, and one Independent.

On all four impeachment articles, Georgia’s congressional delegation voted exclusively along party lines. Republican congressmen Jack Kingston (1st district), Mac Collins (3rd district), Newt Gingrich (6th district), Bob Barr (7th district), Saxby Chambliss (8th district), Nathan Deal (9th district), Charlie Norwood (10th district), and John Linder (11th district) voted in favor of all four articles. Democratic congressmen Sanford Bishop (2nd district) and John Lewis (5th district) and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (4th district) voted against all four articles.

Bob Barr introduced the first resolution seeking a House Judiciary Committee investigation into impeaching Clinton earlier that year.

Balfour jury deliberating

Here are some of the points made by Balfour’s defense, from the AJC:

  • the state’s figures overestimated how much he took.For example, on one count the state claimed he was overpaid $17.72 in mileage. Using both the state and his own records, Balfour said the amount really was $12.87.
  • the overall impression Balfour’s defense team is trying to create that Balfour is being prosecuted for making inadvertent errors to reimbursement claims when the state’s own math may be faulty.
  • Balfour said there are 115 days over five years he was working for the state when he did not claim a legislative per diem. That’s more than $23,000 Balfour said he didn’t claim.“I should’ve gotten paid per diems for those days but for the fact that I didn’t turn them in,” he said. “It wasn’t important. I wasn’t there for the money.”

and from Georgia Public Broadcasting:

  • The trial ended with his testimony that the case was the fruit of political enemies plotting against him.
  • In his closing argument, Hodges questioned the point of bringing a case for such small amounts of money as a few hundred dollars.“You need to send a message to the attorney general as fast as you can: quit wasting our time, quit wasting our resources, quit wasting our tax dollars. You should be angry, ” said Hodges.

Here’s my takeaway from the reporting of the trial: I think Balfour is likely to be acquitted of most, if not all, of the charges. If a juror found the presentation of dates and amounts by the prosecution to be confusing, the juror is likely, in my opinion, to believe that Balfour made mistakes but did not have the requisite intent to sustain the charges against him.

Will this be the next state prosecution?

In Augusta, four City Commissioners have fueled their private vehicles on city gas cards to the tune of more than $6700 this year, with Super District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams totaling $2173 so far.

Smith and Johnson on occasion gassed up during the same dates they were scheduled to attend state training and conferences for which all commissioners are paid mileage.

Commissioners who don’t use the cards said they don’t need them. One of them is Bill Lockett, shown in a recent Augusta Chronicle report to go to training seminars more than his colleagues.

“I’m not in this for the money. If I was, I wouldn’t have completed my first six months,” Lockett said. “I use so much of my own money to be a commissioner. When I go out to schools and talk to young people, I tell them… ‘find a career you’d do even if you don’t get paid for it.’”

Fed Court to GA PSC: No fees for Obamaphones

United States District Court Judge Richard Story has enjoined the Georgia Public Service Commission’s requirement that companies providing “Obamaphones” under a federal subsidy charge clients $5 each or provide a minimum 500 minutes per month.

The fee was set to take effect on January 31 and would have made Georgia the only the U.S. state to charge for the federally subsidized phone service.

“The public interest tilts in favor of providing telephone services to low-income households that otherwise would be unable to afford mobile phones,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story wrote on Tuesday in a temporary injunction that stops the new fee while a court challenge is pending.
Nationally, about 14 million households participate in the Lifeline phone program, according to the Universal Service Administrative Co, the nonprofit organization that administers the program.
Each qualified household gets 250 minutes per month of free air time. Tax money only pays for the phone service, not the actual phones, the nonprofit said.

The cell phone industry trade association, called CTIA, sued Georgia earlier this year even before the new fee got final approval in October. The association claims that by adding the $5 monthly fee, Georgia is setting cell phone rates, which it does not have the legal power to do.
The Georgia fee was aimed at reducing fraud, but consumer advocates claim it will hurt poor customers who are not abusing the program.
Critics say some telephone companies providing the free service are failing to adequately check household income and are not enforcing the one-per-household limit.

Last month, National Review covered the proposed fee for Obamaphones:

The telltale signs of fraud and abuse lurk unseen in many a spreadsheet, and it takes a skeptic to hunt them down and bring them to light. In Georgia, the numbers for the Lifeline subsidized-phone program weren’t adding up, so one state official decided to act.

“We had 125 percent more [subsidized] phones out there than we had people who could qualify. By my estimates, at least 300,000 to 400,000 of the phones [distributed in Georgia] were fraudulent,” says Georgia public-service commissioner Doug Everett. “Since the FCC was not doing anything about it, I figured maybe we could do something on the state level.”

In a 3–2 vote last month, Georgia’s Public Service Commission passed Everett’s proposed measure, so beginning in January, the state will require phone companies to charge Lifeline beneficiaries $5 a month. For a cell phone with 250 minutes and 250 texts a month, that’s still a pretty good deal — unless, of course, you’re accustomed to getting the same for nothing at all.

Everett’s plan is an attempt to discourage fraud on the part of both Lifeline users and phone vendors. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the subsidized-phone program, neither imposes such customer payments nor prohibits states from requiring them.

Fraud and abuse abound because the Lifeline program is predicated on perverse incentives. Essentially, phone companies find themselves running a welfare program, but the more it grows, the more they profit. Street-level vendors usually work on commission, earning around $3 for each person they enroll. Likewise, phone companies get $9.25 a month from the taxpayers for each phone they distribute.

 

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