Georgia to vote in 2022 on suspending pay for assembly members or public officials indicted for felony

Voters in Georgia will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to suspend compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office due to a felony indictment:

1. any member of the General Assembly;

2. Governor;

3. Lieutenant Governor;

4. Secretary of State;

5. Attorney General;

6. State School Superintendent;

7. Commissioner of Insurance;

8. Commissioner of Agriculture; or

9. Commissioner of Labor

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The constitutional amendment was passed in the Senate by a vote of 51-1 and in the House by a vote of 169-0. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

The measure was proposed in the state legislature shortly after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in late January that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck has been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. The charges included stealing over $2 million from his former employer and using those funds to pay for his 2018 campaign. Beck was elected to the office on Nov. 6, 2018, and was suspended from the office by Governor Brian Kemp (R) on May 16, 2019.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Beck’s attorney said in June 2019 that “[Beck] acted legally and in good faith in his employment.” He also said Beck would fight the charges and planned to maintain his job as the state’s insurance commissioner. Beck said, “I am, in fact, innocent of these charges. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.” Because Beck was suspended and did not resign, the state has been compensating him, as well as John King, Kemp’s appointment to fill the position during Beck’s suspension.

Rep. Matthew Wilson (D) said Beck “is about to go a whole term without doing a job Georgians put their trust in him to do, but the taxpayers have been on the hook for his salary, health care and benefits the whole time.”