Last minute debt deal a day late and $4 trillion short

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January 9th, 2010
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Criminal probe sought


The state attorney general’s office is requesting a criminal investigation of a former Department of Transportation treasurer after internal audits raised questions about the agency’s accounting and spending.

The state attorney general’s office is requesting a criminal investigation of a former Department of Transportation treasurer after internal audits raised questions about the agency’s accounting and spending.


Russ Willard of the Attorney General’s office said Friday that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been asked to look into the case of Earl Mahfuz. The GBI did not immediately respond to calls Friday seeking comment.


The audit said Mahfuz instructed transportation officials to stop recording contracts before the end of the 2008 fiscal year to help mask a deficit. The unrecorded contracts totaled more than $150 million.


DOT officials told reporters that they did not believe the department or Mahfuz was guilty of wrongdoing.


KEMP IS INSTALLED


Gov. Sonny Perdue swore in Brian Kemp as Georgia’s new secretary of state, handing the Republican an incumbent’s advantage in the race to be Georgia’s top elections official.


The ceremony took place Friday morning in the governor’s office at the state Capitol.


Kemp will serve the remaining year of Karen Handel’s four-year term. Handel left the $130,690-a-year job to focus on her bid for governor.


A former state senator from Athens, Kemp made a failed 2006 bid to be the GOP nominee for state agriculture commissioner. The 46-year-old faces two Republican challengers for secretary of state this year: former Sandy Springs City Councilman Doug MacGinnitie and former Flowery Branch city councilwoman Robin Carlisle.


MacGinnitie, who has been running virtually full time for nearly a year, said the “political” appointment had no impact on his commitment to remain in the race.


“I entered this race nearly a year ago because I think the office of the Secretary of State is vitally important, and I know that I can serve Georgia and add value in that position for the next four years. I certainly respect the Governor’s decision-making process, but his decision has not changed the reasons I entered the race,” he said.


GUN BILL TO SUBCOMMITTEE


A Georgia bill that would allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons in most places is headed to a House subcommittee.


Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), said a subcommittee will be able to “hash out’’ some of the concerns about the bill.


Most of the discussion centers on an expansion of the rights of licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to churches, bars and college campuses.


The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica), told committee members Thursday the existing law is “extremely confusing’’ to gun owners and law enforcement.


An overflow crowd appeared at the hearing, including gun rights supporters wearing orange badges that read: “Guns Save Lives.’’

Johnny Isakson


ISAKSON: ANALYZE HEALTH BILL


U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, (R-GA) joined 27 of his Senate Republican colleagues in sending a letter to Rick Foster, Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, requesting an analysis of the Senate Democrats’ $2.5 trillion health care bill.


Throughout debate on the Senate health care reform legislation, Isakson has repeatedly criticized the $470 billion in Medicare cuts for seniors and argued that any funds generated from new policies to address waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare should be used to strengthen the Medicare Trust Fund rather than create new programs.


McDONALD CHAIRS PSC


Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Jr. begins a one-year term as Chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission (Commission) for 2010, taking the gavel from outgoing Chairman Doug Everett. The Commission Chairmanship is rotated annually among the five Commission members based on Georgia law and Commission rules.


McDonald is serving his second tour on the Commission, having won election in November 2008 to a full six-year term. He previously served on the Commission from 1998 to 2002.


McDonald promptly announced that Commissioner Stan Wise would serve as vice-chairman. The five-member Commission is a constitutional body responsible for the regulation of electric, natural gas and telecommunications utilities and transportation companies operating inside Georgia.

Kevin Levitas


BILL TARGETS LOOPHOLE


State Rep.Kevin Levitas (D-Tucker) will pre-file legislation this week to close a loophole in Georgia law that allows some career criminals convicted of murder and kidnapping to receive more lenient sentences than offenders convicted of other serious violent felonies.


Levitas said that his new legislation would fix a gap in state law that permits serial felons to escape punishment under the State’s general recidivist punishment statute. Levitas explained that Georgia’s law requiring career criminals to receive maximum, nonparolable sentences was never intended to treat more leniently career criminals convicted of murder or kidnapping with bodily injury.  Under Georgia’s current recidivist punishment statute, the State can require a court to sentence an offender with three or more prior felony convictions to the maximum allowable punishment for a subsequent crime without the possibility of parole. Accordingly, a criminal with three prior felony convictions who commits an offense the maximum punishment for which is life can be compelled to serve a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The Gwinnett County conservative Democrat said the loophole that he seeks to close exempts murders and those convicted of kidnapping with bodily injury from being subject to the maximum punishment provisions of this law.


“The unfortunate inclusion of five words in current law has had the unintended effect of allowing many career criminals convicted of murder or kidnapping with bodily injury to be eligible for parole, while those committing one or more of Georgia’s other serious violent felonies are kept away from the public forever where they belong,” said Levitas.

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