AJC Watchdog: Rape kit bill passes, citizen journalist indicted and more investigations you missed

AJC investigative reporter Willoughby Mariano followed the twisted tale of House Bill 827 for months.

The bill requires law enforcement to find and count untested rape evidence kits. An AJC investigation revealed more than 1,400 kits were awaiting action at Grady Memorial Hospital, despite pleas from victims who wanted them tested.

The bill had been stalled in the Senate on orders from powerful Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, but it passed in the wee hours of the Legislature’s final day of the 2016 session. Read more on that drama here.

Insurance agent bill dies

In other legislative watchdog coverage, James Salzer, the AJC’s Capitol maestro, wrapped up the story of a controversial attempt by some in the Legislature to set a guaranteed minimum fee for insurance agents for certain health policies.

Mar. 24,  2016 -  Atlanta -  House Rules Chairman John Meadows (R - Calhoun) confers with Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert in the waning hours of the evening.  Meadows bill to give minimum commissions to insurance agents failed to pass the senate.   As this years general assembly came to a close on the 40th day of the legislative session, legislators  considered scores of bills and went past the midnight deadline by about 30 minutes.    BOB ANDRES  / BANDRES@AJC.COM

House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R – Calhoun, confers with Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert on the Legislature’s final day of the 2014 session. Meadows bill to give minimum commissions to insurance agents failed to pass the Senate. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The bill was being pushed by one of the most powerful men in the House, Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun. In a story pointing out how legislators private business often intersects with their public service, Salzer and fellow Capitol reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin, noted Meadows’ advocacy may have something to do with the fact that he is an insurance agent himself.

Spoiler alert: The bill died in on the Legislature’s final day when the Senate declined to vote on it. Read the full story here.

Retribution by prosecution?

Are Dawson County officials trying to derail a civil suit by charging an award-winning citizen journalist with a felony?

That’s the question posed by Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer in a story that ran in this Sunday’s AJC. Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist known for videotaping public meetings and posting them online, has been charged with a felony count of obstructing an officer after an incident 15 months ago when she was removed from a Republican rally she had been taping.

The charges came shortly after Tisdale filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the county for her arrest. The sheriff’s deputy who arrested her in August 2014 is running for sheriff.

Read more and watch the Channel 2 report here.

VA mental health

Finally, AJC investigative reporter Brad Schrade has been dogging the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs for its poor treatment of veterans with mental health issues.

Be sure to read this quick story on how the VA Medical Center in Atlanta is addressing rash of suicides at its facility at Clairmont Road. It’s a sad testament to a terrible problem.


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