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State & Regional Govt & Politics
State AG to get bill for Balfour's legal fees
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State AG to get bill for Balfour's legal fees

State AG to get bill for Balfour's legal fees
Photo Credit: Sandra Parrish
Olens says he will treat the request fairly.

State AG to get bill for Balfour's legal fees

The attorney for a state senator acquitted of filing false expense reports plans to submit legal fees totaling more than $100,000 to State Attorney’s General Sam Olens next week.

Ken Hodges says he will file the claim on behalf of Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) who was found not guilty last month by a jury in Fulton County on 18 counts of theft and making false statements.

Olens tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish he will treat the request fairly.

“By law it’s our responsibility, I don’t have the ability to designate it elsewhere,” he says.  “But candidly the talk about sending it to me is taking a lot more time than the submission.”

Hodges says he has been waiting on the bills of two other attorneys who previously represented Balfour.

The senator says it is only fair he be reimbursed.

“The law allows me to reimburse for it because I was tried unjustly and found not guilty,” says Balfour.

The Snellville Republican returned to his Senate seat last week as the Legislature gaveled back into session.

“Everybody’s treated me well and it’s back to where it should be moving forward,” he says.

Balfour admitted to inadvertent mistakes in filing his expense reports over a period of several years.  In some cases, the state owed him money.

In 2012, the Senate Ethics Committee fined him $5,000 for those mistakes and required him to reimburse the state.

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  • The Latest on the Republican legislation overhauling the Obama health care law (all times EDT): 7:15 p.m. Threats of opposition from three Republican senators are casting doubt on whether GOP leaders have enough support to move ahead on the Senate health care bill. The Senate has to hold a procedural vote to move forward, most likely on Wednesday. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine tweeted after the Congressional Budget Office analysis on Monday that the Senate bill won't fix the flaws in the current bill. She says she will vote no on the 'motion to proceed.' Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says he has 'a hard time believing I'll have enough information for me to support a motion to proceed this week.' Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says it's worse to 'pass a bad bill than to pass no bill.' Republicans can't afford more than two defections. ___ 6:35 p.m. The White House says the Congressional Budget Office's projection that 22 million more people will be uninsured in 2026 'must not be trusted blindly.' The White House is again trying to undermine the analysis of the CBO, questioning the office's predictions that millions of more Americans would be uninsured under a Senate health care proposal compared with President Barack Obama's health care law. The White House says the CBO 'has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage.' It says the office has a 'history of inaccuracy,' and cites its 'flawed report on coverage, premiums and predicted deficit arising out of Obamacare.' ___ 6:30 p.m. Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono is decrying the Republican health care bill as 'mean, ugly' a day ahead of her own surgery. Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Hirono says people typically figure health insurance is a concern for someone else until they get sick. Hirono announced in May that she was being treated for kidney cancer. She says she will have surgery Tuesday to remove a lesion on her rib. But first she joined several Democratic senators in criticizing the GOP health care bill, saying it was a 'tax cut for the rich bill.' Hirono says health care is a right, not a privilege. And in light of the budget analysis that found 22 million more Americans would be uninsured, Hirono says, 'it's as bad as we thought.' ___ 6 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focusing on the tax cuts, deficit reduction and lower premiums cited in a nonpartisan analysis of the Senate's health care bill, and making no mention of the 22 million more Americans who would be uninsured. McConnell put out a brief statement Monday after the release of the Congressional Budget Office report. He says Americans need relief from the 'failed Obamacare law,' and says the Senate will soon act on a bill to give Americans better care. The Kentucky Republican says the bill would lower premiums by 30 percent in 2020, cut taxes by $700 billion and reduce the deficit by $331 billion. His statement omits any mention of the CBO prediction that 22 million more Americans would be uninsured in 2026 than under President Barack Obama's health care law. ___ 4:20 p.m. The Senate health care bill would result in 22 million more uninsured Americans over the next decade compared to current law. That's according to an analysis Monday from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The figure may further complicate Senate GOP leaders' plans to pass their bill this week. It's barely an improvement upon the health care bill that passed the House — which would have resulted in 23 million more uninsured. Several GOP senators have said they want to see their bill cover more people than the House version. And President Donald Trump himself called the House bill 'mean' — though he's lent his support to the Senate version and is lobbying for passage. ___ 2:15 p.m. The nation's largest doctors' group is outlining its opposition to the Senate Republican health care bill. The American Medical Association sent a letter Monday to Senate leaders saying the draft legislation violates the medical oath to 'first, do no harm.' The letter says the Republican plan is likely to lead to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care for low- and middle-income patients. The doctors' group says the Senate bill's Medicaid payment formulas threaten to 'limit states' ability to address the health care needs of their most vulnerable citizens' and won't keep up with new medical innovations and epidemics such as the opioid addiction crisis. The letter is signed by Dr. James L. Madara, the group's CEO. The AMA has about a quarter-million members. __ 2 p.m. One of the nation's biggest health insurers says the Senate health care bill will 'markedly improve' the individual insurance market's stability and moderate premium hikes. Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem says the bill will help in part by appropriating money for cost-sharing reduction payments and eliminating a health insurance tax. Cost-sharing reduction payments help cover expenses like deductibles for people with modest incomes. President Donald Trump has discussed ending these payments, and insurers planning to return to the exchanges next year want a guarantee that the payments also will return. Anthem Inc. sells coverage in key markets like New York and California. It has said tough market conditions have forced it to pull out of exchanges in three states for 2018: Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana. __ 1:10 p.m. Senate Republicans have issued a revised version of their health care bill. The changes include a penalty for people who let their insurance lapse. Under the new package, people who lacked coverage for at least 63 days in the past year and then buy a policy would face a six-month delay before it takes effect. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his initial measure last week. It had no penalty for people who let their coverage expire. The waiting period is designed to prompt healthy people who might not otherwise buy insurance to do so. That helps insurance companies pay for sicker customers who are more expensive to cover. McConnell is hoping to push the measure through the Senate by the end of this week, but some Republicans are rebelling. __ 12:55 p.m. An outside group backing President Donald Trump will begin targeting more Republican holdouts on the Senate's health care bill. America First Policies is expanding its campaign against Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to include Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. Those lawmakers came out against the bill as written when it was made public last week. A senior official with America First Policies says online and social media ads will remind voters that Republicans have promised to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation. The official demanded anonymity to discuss the plan. The group also is preparing radio and television ads to run ahead of the vote, which could come at the end of this week. — Julie Bykowicz __ 11:19 a.m. A conservative Republican senator who doesn't back the GOP health care bill is using unusually sharp tones to criticize party leaders. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is accusing top Republicans of trying to jam the legislation through the Senate. He says the leadership effort is 'a little offensive' and says conservatives haven't had input into the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation last week rolling back much of President Barack Obama's health care law. Johnson is among four conservatives and a moderate who said they don't back the measure but haven't ruled out supporting it if it's changed. McConnell is working this week to make revisions to win over votes. The bill will win approval if just two of the 52 Senate Republicans support it. All Democrats oppose it. __ 10:54 a.m. A nonpartisan group representing Republican and Democratic state officials who administer Medicaid programs says the GOP health care legislation advancing toward a Senate vote will not work. In a strongly worded statement that reflects the 'unanimous' views of its board, the National Association of Medicaid Directors said the Republican health care bill would be 'a transfer of risk, responsibility, and cost to the states of historic proportions.' While the group's members differ over the concept of federal spending limits on the health program for low-income people, the board agreed that the inflation adjustments in the Senate bill 'are insufficient and unworkable.' Medicaid has become perhaps the key sticking point in the congressional debate. The group said Congress should focus on stabilizing insurance markets for now, and tackle Medicaid overhaul later in a more thoughtful manner. __ 2:54 a.m. Senate Republicans skeptical about a GOP health overhaul bill are expressing some doubt about holding a vote on the measure this week. Lawmakers are awaiting a key analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. President Donald Trump is making a final push to fulfill a key campaign promise, insisting that Republicans are not 'that far off' and signaling that last-minute changes are coming to win votes. So far, five Republican senators are expressing opposition to the Senate GOP plan that would scuttle much of former President Barack Obama's health law. That's more than enough to torpedo the measure developed in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The holdouts are expressing willingness to negotiate, but many of them are pushing revisions that could risk alienating moderate Republicans in the process.
  • Police are looking for the person who sprayed bullets into a home filled with children. Newnan police told Channel 2 Action News that four girls were inside the home on Reynolds Street having a sleepover when someone outside fired a gun into the home around 11:30 p.m. Two of the girls, both 11, were hit by gunfire. 'We ask you to have a heart, understand that we want to speak to you. We will hopefully track down leads and locate you and this is your opportunity to come forward and let us know what happened in your own words,' said Newnan's deputy police chief. Kocoyo Elder, who lives in the neighborhood, was home watching TV with her grandkids when she heard the gunshots. 'We paused the TV and we heard the sirens, and we came on the porch and saw a lot of police and there were a lot of people walking this way,' she said as she described the scene to Channel 2's Lori Wilson. One of the girls were hit in the cheek, the other was shot in the thigh. They were taken to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Both are listed as stable. TRENDING STORIES: From Mexico to metro Atlanta: Bust nets $1M in meth, $250K in cash Teen missing for more than a year found at Duluth home Police continue to search for duo seen punching woman, daughter One of the girls' mothers was home at the time. 'When you arrive and you find that two 11-year-old girls were enjoying a sleepover with family and freinds and they've been shot now, that tugs at your heart,' Deputy Chief Cooper said. Investigators believe the gun used was a 9mm. Police were able to count seven bullet holes in the home. 'I couldn't sleep until I got up this morning and knew they was OK,' one of the mothers said. Neighbors are hoping for justice but worry about an attempt at retaliation. 'It grieves my spirit knowing that two young ladies could have possibly lost their life in this area. That's not right,' said Pastor Render Godfrey, who lives in the area. More than anything, they want the violence to stop. One neighbor who asked Wilson to go by her first name Jackie says she constantly worries living in this area. 'I've been terrified for years because every other month there's always something going on,' she said.
  • The son of former Atlanta Braves infielder Keith Lockhart is fighting for his life after he was hit in the face with a baseball.According to a post by the family on social media, Jason Lockhart, 15, was hit on June 17 when he was playing in a baseball tournament in South Carolina.Channel 2 Action News has learned when Lockhart touched home plate, the catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher. It hit Jason in the face, breaking his nose.In a Facebook post written by his sister, we learned Jason was initially given stitches but on June 19 when he visited the doctor's office for X-rays, his nose began to bleed profusely. Doctors could not stop the bleeding and even after going to urgent care, he was ultimately taken to the Scottish Rite hospital in Atlanta.A CT scan determined the fracture was more severe than doctors originally thought. The results showed a laceration on his artery. Sydney Lockhart says a surgeon was brought in to stitch up a laceration in his nose and reset his broken nose the next day.In an update on Wednesday, Sydney Lockhart wrote that an artery was cut by the fracture and Jason was sedated for two days. He was put on a ventilator to help his body rest but the bleeding continued.On Friday, he was heavily sedated in a paralytic state and put on life support so doctors could monitor and contain any bleeding. In Facebook post written by his mother, she said doctors determined the blood was coming from his nose, not his brain. Jason also developed a fever, which doctors say is common when the body is fighting a condition as severe as this.Jason was originally scheduled to have surgery Monday but doctors have moved it to Tuesday according to his sister's Facebook page. Sydney Lockhart says although there was no bleeding since Sunday's surgery, his body is responding a bit slower than anticipated. Doctors are also backing off several medications, according to the post written Monday afternoon.The procedure is to remove and replace packing in his nose and will closely look inside to figure out if there is an area behind the packing that could cause more bleeding. TRENDING STORIES: From Mexico to metro Atlanta: Bust nets $1M in meth, $250K in cash Teen missing for more than a year found at Duluth home Police continue to search for duo seen punching woman, daughter Support has been flooding social media with messages from inside the baseball community to friends and family.Keith Lockhart played several seasons for the Braves.Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz issued a statement on Twitter offering prayers for Jason and his family and encouraged fans to do the same.The family asks for prayers and support saying:We are really staying positive that this is the best way to give Jason the most comfort possible and the least stress. Thank you again for standing with us in the biggest and scariest situation our family has ever encountered. With Love and Appreciation, The Lockhart family Our top 3 requests or goals right now are: 1. Keeping Jason at this calm paralytic state with no movements 2. No bleeding 3. Making it to Monday and letting Jason's body do all the clotting itself Thanks so much for all the outpouring prayers & support for Jay. It's been rough, a few surgeries but we're confident he's going to be ok.-- Keith Lockhart (@klocky7) June 24, 2017 Jason had a good night last night still had some bleeding but manageable no surgery. Hoping and praying for the same today.#staystrongJ-- Keith Lockhart (@klocky7) June 24, 2017 Jason just came out of surgery Dr.'s located 3 areas of bleeding &stopped the flow of blood. We are all encouraged about today!#staystrongJ-- Keith Lockhart (@klocky7) June 25, 2017 I don't think y'all understand how much of a champion this child is 💛 pic.twitter.com/TaGn7XPFq5-- syds (@SydneyLockhart) June 21, 2017 Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz statement on Jason Lockhart, son of Braves alumni @klocky7: pic.twitter.com/JiIxyZgoN1-- Atlanta Braves (@Braves) June 26, 2017
  • Russell Westbrook has been voted NBA MVP after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season. Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks. Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62. The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards. Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era. Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966. 'I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards,' Brogdon said. 'I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot.' Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award. Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve. The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.
  • The nation's largest wildfire has forced more than 1,500 people from their homes and cabins in a southern Utah mountain area home to a ski town and popular fishing lake. Firefighters battled high winds Monday as they fought a fire that has grown to 72 square miles (184 square kilometers) and burned 13 homes — larger than any other fire in the country now, state emergency managers said. Some flames reached 100 feet high, while fire crews faced dry, windy conditions Tuesday and a 'high potential' for extreme fire behavior, officials said late Monday. The estimated firefighting costs now top $7 million for a fire started June 17 near the Brian Head Resort by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds, they said. Investigators said they know who the culprit is, but they haven't yet released the person's identity or what charges will be leveled. Crews in California, meanwhile, got a handle on a brush fire that closed a freeway. Arizona firefighters had to ground aircraft because of unauthorized drones over a fire near Flagstaff. The Utah fire began near the ski resort town of Brian Head, generally known for weekend getaway homes for Las Vegas residents. It has spread several miles east to an area around Panguitch Lake, a popular spot for fishing. Authorities ordered more evacuations Monday in a sparsely populated area as stronger winds and lower humidity develop that could push fire growth north after calmer weather kept its growth in check over the weekend. The fire is about 10 percent contained. About 175 people have been briefly allowed back to their homes near Panguitch Lake since Sunday under escort, said Denise Dastrup with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. Randi Powell said her grandfather is hoping to get up to see his cabin on Tuesday. Powell said it has been an 'emotional roller coaster' for her and her grandparents, who live part of the year at a cabin near the fire. Powell said she and her sister helped grab family heirlooms, pictures and important documents last Thursday when her grandparents had to evacuate on short notice. Powell is relying on social media updates from friends and others who live or have homes in the area. So far, it appears her grandparents' 5-bedroom cabin, built about 60 years ago, is still intact, she said. But that hasn't stopped them from worrying. 'There will be uncertainty until you get up there and walk through it,' said Powell, 32, who lives about one hour away in Cedar City. 'Until it's totally out, you won't know if you'll be OK.' At Brian Head Resort, they are hoping that hot spots near where the blaze started will calm down enough to allow officials to lift the evacuations in time for 4th of July festivities that usually bring an estimated 15,000 people to listen to music and watch fireworks, resort spokesman Mark Wilder said. If the events can happen, they will likely be scaled back with fewer visitors — and with no fireworks, he said. Wilder said they're hopeful but realistic. 'Things change day-to-day,' Wilder said. 'This thing has been a beast.' Meanwhile, a wildfire surging out of control on California's Central Coast has forced about 250 people to evacuate from their homes. The blaze broke out late Monday afternoon and within just a few hours had grown to about 500 acres (200 hectares), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The evacuation order is for a string of homes along about five sparsely populated rural roads in and around the small town of Santa Margarita about 10 miles (16 km) north of the much larger city of San Luis Obispo. Another California wildfire sparked by a traffic accident on a remote stretch of highway 80 miles east of Los Angeles has grown to nearly two square miles (over 500 hectares) in just a few hours. Two people were hospitalized in the solo-vehicle crash and subsequent car fire that caused the wildfire on Monday afternoon. Both California fires came amid soaring temperatures and dry air that are supposed to start receding early Tuesday. In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez ordered flags to fly at half-staff in honor of a volunteer firefighter who died from injuries suffered while battling a brush fire in eastern New Mexico last week. Nara Visa Fire Chief Gary Girard tells The Eastern New Mexico News that John Cammack was severely burned after falling from a fire engine when the winds shifted and the flames changed direction. In Arizona, firefighters had to ground aircraft after they spotted drones being flown near the fire, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Dennis Godfrey said. The Arizona Republic reports another unauthorized drone was spotted Sunday, temporarily halting aerial efforts to put out a fire northwest of Flagstaff that is 88 percent contained. ____ Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
  • Karlos Cashe thought he was facing a minor traffic ticket when he was pulled over by police in Oviedo, Florida, in March for driving without headlights. >> Read more trending news When an officer saw white powder on his seat and floorboard, though, the situation became much more serious. Cashe was on probation at the time on marijuana and cocaine charges from 2015. He was put in handcuffs when court records showed he was out past his court-ordered curfew. Hours later, police realized the system was not up to date and Cashe had not violated his curfew. When the officer field tested the white powder, it came up positive for cocaine, officials said. “I know for a fact (that) it’s drywall because I’m a handyman,” Cashe said. “I said that continuously during the arrest stop.” A K-9 unit arrived at the scene and the dog alerted on Cashe’s vehicle and an Oviedo Police Department sergeant field tested substances he believed to be marijuana and more cocaine. When those tests came back positive, Cashe was taken to the Seminole County Jail. Because he was accused of violating probation, he was denied bond. “I sat there 90 days knowing I was innocent,” Cashe said. Nearly three months later, lab tests on the substances collected in Cashe’s vehicle came back with results showing there were no drugs in the car at the time of his arrest. Cashe walked out of jail last week, and is now hoping his story might cause police to take closer looks in this type of case. “This is what I want to stop,” he said. “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”