Capitol Recap: Seeking a legislative cure to a Georgia medical problem

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Georgia’s high rate of maternal mortality first gained attention when Amnesty International examined 2006 statistics and ranked the state 50th out of 50.

In the 10 years that followed, it only got worse.

Now, three years after that, the General Assembly is rolling out the machinery to do something about it.

State House Speaker David Ralston has appointed the House Study Committee of Maternal Mortality.

“Georgia simply cannot continue to have one of the nation’s worst rates of maternal mortality,” Ralston said in a press releasing announcing the appointment of the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality. “This is an issue which impacts all Georgians and demands a fact-based approach to problem-solving.”

So how bad is it?

In 2016, the state saw 37.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

That was up from 20.5 deaths in 2006, when Amnesty International put Georgia at the bottom of all states. It’s not like those other states were doing well, either. The U.S. rate at the time was 13.3 deaths, significantly higher than what other industrialized nations were experiencing.

So this summer, the study committee will start looking at potential legislation for the General Assembly session that begins in January.

Access to health care is a factor in the maternal mortality rate, which is defined as deaths that occur during pregnancy, in childbirth or in the weeks afterward. That means the committee will probably watch closely what happens with the waiver Gov. Brian Kemp is seeking to bring more federal Medicaid dollars to the state.

Race is another factor. The Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that black women are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy and delivery.

Ralston named fellow Republican state Reps. Sharon Cooper of Marietta and Mark Newton of Augusta to head the committee. Cooper is chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Newton is an emergency room physician.

To fill out the panel, Ralston also tapped state Reps. Chuck Efstration, R-DaculaCarolyn Hugley, D-ColumbusDeborah Silcox, R-Sandy SpringsValencia Stovall, D-Forest Park; and Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville.

Where helps determine what: If you're a Democrat, suggestions of impeaching President Donald Trump are kind of like real estate: It's a matter of location, location, location.

Teresa Tomlinson, the only major Democrat so far in Georgia’s race next year for the U.S. Senate, is for impeachment and even says it’s the “duty” of U.S. House members to begin the process.

"The fact of the matter is, you're not up there to get re-elected," she said recently at a breakfast with Athens Democrats, according to The Flagpole. "You're up there to lead. … We have to go through the process. If the Senate votes to acquit, they vote to acquit."

But, once again, it should be noted that Tomlinson is running for the Senate, and more Democrats are likely to join the race. Her hopes of winning the nomination may rely on energizing party activists.

As she pointed out, impeachment is a job for the House.

Which is why things are different for U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. The Marietta Democrat won a close race in November in a district Republicans had held for decades. For McBath, the political terrain isn’t so firm.

McBath isn’t dismissing the idea of impeachment, but right now it isn’t a priority for her, either.

“Let’s be real: Looking at the Mueller report, there is no doubt in my mind that there has been obstructive behavior in concealing the truth,” McBath said.

But she says she needs to know more than what’s come out from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before invoking what Trump calls the “I-word.”

“There is a process and that process takes time,” McBath said. “… We need to hear from witnesses who can give us the truth about what happened. … We need information about the redacted information (in the Mueller report).”

She added, “If it comes to impeachment inquiries, you can trust that your representatives will do their job.”

Not on his nightstand: U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall said this past week that he hadn't read the full Mueller report, but the Lawrenceville Republican appears to believe at least some of it.

Moscow did interfere in the 2016 presidential election, Woodall said.

"Russians did try to meddle, they just didn't try to meddle with the partnership of the Trump administration," Woodall told CBS News. "The Russians did try to meddle and we should hold every single one of those folks accountable. The Russians absolutely tried to meddle, and yet half of the Mueller report is focused on the Trump administration and what the Trump administration was doing after this counterintelligence investigation started. We should be concerned."

Two days earlier, Woodall appeared on Kasie Hunt’s show on MSNBC, where he said he had not read the full report.

First asked why the Mueller report isn’t on his summer reading list, Woodall responded, “I said when we started this conversation, I trusted Mr. Mueller, took a lot of slings and arrows throughout this process, but every U.S. attorney I knew said this is a man of great integrity.”

Pressed further by Hunt, Woodall said: “The role that I play in Congress is not to bring down a sitting president. The role I play in Congress is to try to work with my speaker so I can send a bill to that president’s desk.”

Speaking to CBS, Woodall said attention needs to be paid to the first part of Mueller’s report. Woodall, who will be leaving Congress when his current term ends in January 2021, added that he has no questions for Mueller.

“He was assigned a job, and I think he did that job as well as he could,” Woodall said of Mueller.

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to Woodall during the November midterms by just 433 votes, thinks Woodall is missing out on a great read.

Bourdeaux, who is making another run for the House seat, went to Twitter to send out highlights from the report, along with page numbers so you can easily find them.

“Of course, no need to read a 448-page report when your conclusion was already predetermined by a 280 character Trump tweet,” she said in the tweet.

Going in reverse or just reverse psychology? Maybe he's just talking like a football coach worried that his team, after a long winning streak, might not take the opposition seriously.

But when state GOP Chairman David Shafer talks about his party's prospects in the 2020 election, he doesn't paint a picture of marshmallows and rainbows.

"I think our Republican Party is in trouble," Shafer said at a recent meeting in Hall County, according to The Gainesville Times.

So why do things look bad in 2020? Because of 2018.

“I think if you look at the last election cycle, the statewide margins had narrowed to a very uncomfortable level and we lost seats that we shouldn’t have lost in the suburbs of Atlanta,” said Shafer, who’s been on the job for less than a month.

Shafer said a number of factors contributed to those setbacks, but a big one is attitude.

“I think there’s been a complacency that’s overtaken us in the 15 years of Republican supermajority,” he said. “We’ve allowed it to become weaker, and I think that we don’t have any margin of error going forward. We’ve got to pull everything together.”

An independent streak:State Sen. Renee Unterman's entry into the 7th Congressional District race sets up a contest for her Gwinnett County seat in the state's upper chamber.

Arthur Tripp Jr., a former assistant to University of Georgia President Jere Morehead, aims to fill the void.

He plans to run as an independent.

Unterman is a Republican, but the county’s demographic shifts have been trending Democratic. Tripp could be hoping there’s a window of opportunity between the two parties.

“It is clear that the politics of today has become incredibly divisive and has pit neighbor against neighbor,” a press release states in announcing Tripp’s candidacy. “… Our campaign is focused on Georgians who are fed up with the state of politics and who, quite frankly, deserve a better choice.”

In addition to working for Morehead, Tripp is a former senior policy aide to U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta, one of the more conservative Democratic members of the U.S. House.

If Tripp won, he would be the first independent to serve in the state Senate in more than 40 years.

Capitol Recap

Here's a look at some of the political and government stories that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's staff broke online during the past week. To see more of them, go to

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