Gang violence, maternal mortality among topics lawmakers will study

By: and - August 7, 2019 8:00 am

Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, speaks Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at the first meeting of a legislative study committee focused on how to prevent gang and youth violence. Photo by Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Georgia lawmakers are gearing up for another busy study committee season that will tackle topics as varied as the state’s high death rate for new and expectant mothers, combating gang violence and the prospects of legalizing horse race gambling.

Some of these legislative panels, such as one focused on preventing gang and youth violence, are already at work.

Rep. Carl Gilliard, a Savannah-area Democrat, pushed for more emphasis on getting ahead of gang violence as Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republican state leaders rolled out a tough-on-crime approach that increases efforts to prosecute more cases under Georgia’s existing gang law.

“The governor and the attorney general are focusing on the law aspects, and they do need to,” Gilliard said Monday. “We’re going to focus on the other side to complement what they’re doing, because if we don’t deal with cutting off the cancer, the cancer’s going to grow.

“So the preventive measure is very important,” he said.

This is one of the out-of-session deep dives that House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, has said will help shape next year’s House priorities. Others will take on maternal mortality, mental health services and the movement of freight throughout Georgia.

The work of these study committees will sometimes result in proposed legislative fixes next session.

Some committees push off with a specific mission. In other instances, the issues they are tasked with addressing are quite broad and the accompanying resolutions offer few insights into what their goals may be.

And the makeup of a committee’s membership will sometimes draw criticism from legislators.

House Democrats requested that at least two black women be placed on the maternal mortality committee as a way to give voice to a community that national statistics show is most at risk.

Five of the seven members are women, however, only two of the women are black.

“We are slightly disappointed that that minimum was taken as a maximum,” State Rep. Park Cannon, an Atlanta Democrat, said at a July press conference. 

“And we hope that black women will be listened to on this issue and that women of color in the state of Georgia will feel comfortable coming to the study committee and sharing their issues on women’s health,” she said. “Because we know that there is a pipeline between many reproductive health experiences and maternal mortality.”

2019 legislative study committees

House of Representatives

  • Maternal Mortality: This new committee will address the death rate among new and expectant mothers. Georgia’s maternal mortality rate ranks as one of the worst in the nation.
  • House Rural Development Council: It’s the largest study committees with 16 legislators appointed to it. The group returns for a third year, and under new leadership, to discuss issues affecting rural communities like economic development and hospital closures.
  • Gang and Youth Violence Prevention: Curbing gang violence has become one of Kemp’s priorities. There are more than 71,000 suspected gang members in the state and this new study committee will look into how to better utilize resources in hopes of steering Georgia’s youth away from gangs in the first place.
  • Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living: The lawmakers will look at ways to use tax credits and other methods to make it easier for seniors to find affordable housing options.
  • Infant and Toddler Social and Emotional Health: Members will study the services offered to prevent and treat mental health issues that affect babies, young children and the adults in their lives.
  • Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Midlevel Providers: This three-person committee will look into streamlining state laws that give physicians oversight of registered nurses and physician assistants.
  • Workforce Housing: The committee will review residential building codes regulations in an attempt to protect individual rights and encourage more affordable housing, the resolution says.
  • Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries, and Other Sports-Related Injuries: The committee will examine how to prevent the 9,000 heat-related injuries suffered each year by high school athletes.
  • PANDAS: This group is set to address the roadblocks to adequate health care that can lead to pediatric syndromes and disorders that cause anxiety among children.


  • Revising Voting Rights for Nonviolent Felony Offenders: Felons in Georgia are not allowed to vote, but should people convicted of nonviolent crimes be allowed to get back their voting rights?
  • Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: This committee’s mission mirrors a House committee that attempts to improve physicians’ oversight of registered nurses and physician assistants.
  • Athletic Associations: Should a nonprofit organization continue to oversee high school athletics in Georgia?
  • Portable Benefits for Independent Workers: Contracted, temporary and part-time workers typically don’t have the same benefits as their full time-counterparts. The committee will study if there are benefits part-time and independent workers can easily carry to various jobs, the resolution said.
  • Community Schools: Members will study the effectiveness of so-called wrap-around services for schoolchildren with a collaboration between the school and community stakeholders, including local government and social service providers 
  • Passenger Vehicle Seat Safety Belts: Committee members will consider if back seat passengers should be required to wear seat belts.
  • Gaming and Pari-mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia’s Equine Industry: Betting on horse racing in Georgia may bring in big bucks for the state and this committee is out to find out the bottom line of legalizing it.
  • Protection from Sexual Predators: The committee will look at ways to protect the public from people convicted of sex crimes. The state Supreme Court ruled in March that it is unconstitutional to have sex offenders electronically monitored after their sentence is completed.
  • Reducing Waste in Health Care: The committee will examine ways state regulation can improve financial management efficiency in hospitals.
  • Reducing Georgia’s Cost of Doing Business: This group is studying how lawsuits are impacting auto insurance rates and rural healthcare access for businesses. 
  • Creating a Georgia Agricultural Marketing Authority: The committee will focus on whether a statewide-authority should be formed to promote agribusiness.
  • Financial Efficiency Star Rating: School districts are rated based on their spending of federal and state funds. This committee will examine if this system favors larger school districts.
  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Landscape Workforce Access: Members will examine employment initiatives to increase the workforce in these industries.
  • Higher Education Outcomes: The committee will research the ways higher education is meeting the demands of an evolving labor market.
  • Educational Development of African-American Children in Georgia: This group will study the resources available in communities that have a major impact on black children.
  • Evaluating E-scooters and Other Innovative Mobility Options for Georgians: The committee will try to bring together electric scooter companies, colleges and governments to deal with a burgeoning industry. 

Joint Committee

  • Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics: As more freight travels through the Peach State, this group will seek to create a statewide plan addressing transportation infrastructure. 

Special Working Groups

  • Access to Quality Healthcare Special Committee
  • Working Group on Creative Arts and Entertainment


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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.