Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 17, 2013


Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for October 17, 2013

Rep. Tom Price at the center of the storm

As Congress passed a compromise to end the 17% shutdown, Congressman Tom Price, who represents me well, was appointed by US House Speaker John Boehner as a conferee on the 2014 federal budget. The bipartisan sellout compromise ended the biggest fiscal showdown in Washington since the bar tab for the 2013 Class of RLG at Old Ebbitt Grill in May.

New life for McKoon Amendment

Jim Galloway writes that allegations by disgruntled former and current employees of the Georgia State Ethics Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, along with the indictment of state Senator Don Balfour, have given new life to Senate Resolution 6 by Senator Josh McKoon. From Galloway’s story

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, says he intends to hold hearings on his proposed amendment to the state Constitution early next year. He’ll push for the required two-thirds passage by both the House and Senate, so that the measure can be placed on the November ballot for voter approval.

McKoon said he does not expect his Capitol colleagues to be thrilled when they see him coming.

“This is something that really puts some teeth in enforcement when it comes to public corruption,” McKoon said. “So I think you’re going to see a lot of resistance, because people are afraid that it could be them on the other side of the equation.”

Georgia’s attorney general already has the power to bring indictments against public officials through local grand juries. This is the path that Sam Olens took when he brought charges this month, under the auspices of a Fulton County grand jury, against state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, for misuse of his legislative expense account.

Indictments must come where the crime allegedly occurred, or where the defendant lives. McKoon’s legislation, Senate Resolution 6, would permit the attorney general to summon his own grand jury without geographic limitations.

It would also serve to emphasize the attorney general’s role as the public’s prosecutor – rather than the lawyer for state government and its officialdom. In addition, the measure would be an admission that the state ethics commission isn’t the proper vehicle for serious probes.

“I think we would be better served by the commission playing the role of refereeing these technical issues about compliance with disclosure laws. I think that’s the role they have to play in our system,” McKoon said. “Let the attorney general be the watchdog from a public corruption standpoint. By putting it in a legal process, you create a lot of checks and balances. You eliminate a lot of the political considerations.”

Olens, who would be the immediate beneficiary of McKoon’s push, has spoken in favor of a statewide grand jury system before. He declined to talk about it in this context, perhaps because he is currently in a tight spot.

Jim Galloway also gives some historical context, noting that Republican Bob Bell, the Republican nominee for Governor in 1982 supported a similar concept, as did longtime Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, first elected as a Democrat, later a Republican.

Back in January, I interviewed Senator McKoon about the Resolution, which would put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot.

The issue here in not really legislators. For all the talk of alleged corruption under the Gold Dome, I have yet to see a recent example of alleged vote-buying or bribery. However, County Commissioners, local city council members, and others at the local level are regularly indicted and convicted or plead guilty to malfeasance in office. Just yesterday, former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis pled guilty to obstruction in connection with a scandal involving school construction projects.

This is about local corruption and giving the people an additional tool for cases in which local prosecutors are either unwilling or unable to bring charges against other officials, or where they lack the resources to investigate and prosecute complex corruption cases.

Balfour panel appointed

Governor Nathan Deal appointed state House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire), state Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley to a panel that will recommend whether Deal should suspend state Senator Don Balfour while the senator is under indictment. If the panel recommends Balfour’s suspension, the Governor will decide whether to suspend him or not; if the panel does not recommend suspension, the matter is closed.

A competitive race in Fulton Commission District 2

Eric Broadwell announced that he will announce tomorrow that he is running for District 2 on the Fulton County Commission, joining Bob Ellis, who announcing his candidacy last month.

Broadwell sent a press release:

Cobb EMC Director and family man, Eric Broadwell is making his run for Fulton County Commissioner official. On Friday Oct 18 at 12:30 on the Roswell City Hall steps Eric will be joined by his supporters as he announces his candidacy for Fulton County Commissioner in district 2. Broadwell plans to use his skills and experience gained at the utility Cobb EMC to mop up Fulton County.

Broadwell serves on the board of Cobb EMC, the 5th largest EMC utility in the nation, and is the Finance Committee Chairman overseeing a budget of 505 million for a billion dollar company. During Broadwell’s chairmanship Cobb EMC has reduced electric rates twice while others are raising rates. He has helped focus attention on reducing expenses while aligning expenses with revenue. This is what Broadwell will work to accomplish as commissioner at Fulton County. Eric Broadwell also serves on the Roswell City ethics committee.


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