Slightly over an hour ago, the Senate Ethics Committee emerged from a lengthy meeting stating that they had found “substantial cause” to believe that Rules Committee Chairman Don Balfour had “violated Senate rules”, and that they “will seek a settlement with the powerful Gwinnett Republican”.

Balfour, in the midst of a re-election bid versus two primary opponents, and one Democrat, has been “accused of improperly claiming mileage and per diem payments from the state for days he did not earn it…while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips”. Though the initial complaints were filed by ethics watchdog groups, some within his district, the Senate committee elected to move forward with its own investigation, one that did not involve the outside accusations. Following the meeting, which began around 11 this morning, the Ethics Committee Chairman, state Sen. John Crosby (R-Tifton) stated that the committee would now be moving forward with its own complaint.

The next phase will involve an attempt at negotiating a settlement with Senator Balfour, though there are no Senate rules available to reveal what such an agreement may entail. Should no deal be reached, public meetings, “akin to a trial with Balfour allowed to present a defense”, will be next on the docket.

Balfour dismissed the initial complaints as “campaign politics”. Today’s news comes on the heels of his signing a pledge to co-sponsor legislation that would cap lobbyist gifts at $100, which has been championed by the same activists who have accused of ethics violations.

-Brandon Howell