Republican blocks 'overly politicized' Georgia rape kit bill

The supporters of a measure that would require police to find and count neglected sexual assault evidence are ratcheting up the pressure on a Senate Republican who said she would not schedule a hearing on the proposal.

Advocacy groups are urging their members to call state Sen. Renee Unterman, who has declined to hold a hearing on the proposal. And some victim rights groups are trying to go above her head and directly to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the Senate.

Unterman made clear on Monday she wouldn't budge, and told WSB-TV's Lori Geary that Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb, who sponsored the measure, have tried to score political points with the bill.

"If there was a problem, I would be Johnny on the spot and I would have written the legislation," she told Geary, adding: "I think he really overly politicized it in an election year and I've got a problem with that."

Our AJC colleague Willoughby Mariano has plenty more on the legislation:

House Bill 827 passed the House unanimously last month, but the legislation may die if Health and Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Rene Unterman continues to deny requests for a hearing, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta.

Backers say the legislation would clear up years of confusion about when and how new evidence, stored in packages known as rape kits, should be picked up by police and sent to forensic labs for DNA testing. Members of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, police chiefs association, two hospital groups and victim advocates have all spoken in support of the bill.

But Unterman said that the problems are in DeKalb and Fulton counties only, and testimony at hearings she held on sexual assault issues before the session showed that law enforcement agencies are cleaning up their acts.

“I don’t see a reason to write a law,” the Buford Republican said.

Holcomb said he’s had several conversations with Unterman and that he “strongly” disagrees with her stance.

“In Georgia today, there are rape kits sitting on shelves, not moving. House Bill 827 fixes that,” he said. “And it is worth noting that the bill is supported by – and drafted with input from – law enforcement, victims’ rights groups and care providers.”

Better Georgia, the left-leaning advocacy group, sent a blast to its members urging them to ratchet up the pressure on Unterman.

“Let’s be clear: this bill would not just address the shocking issue of abandoned and untested rape kits; it would guide the process for rape kit collection and testing moving forward,” the group said.

“This is a simple, common sense proposal with overwhelming bipartisan support that would solve a big problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again. There is no good reason not to support it.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.