The long, strange trip of Georgia’s rape kit bill

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. AJC file/Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. AJC file/Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

It had the overwhelming support of bipartisan lawmakers, buy-in from law enforcement and hospital groups, and backing from Gov. Nathan Deal. And yet legislation to require police to find and count untested sexual assault evidence almost didn’t become law in Georgia this year.

Deal is set to sign the measure into law Tuesday, and the fight over it proves yet again that even the most seemingly innocuous proposals can stir up major controversy under the Gold Dome. Indeed, the war of words over the measure still rages.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, the Buford Republican who initially blocked the measure and then begrudgingly supported it, said she’s unsettled by the new law because she said the “infrastructure was working” and the backlog of untested rape kits is being cleared. She, too, was candid about the price she exacted for her support — though she didn’t elaborate on any specific horse-trading.

March 16, 2016 Atlanta: Rape survivor Lisa Anderson talks with Rep. Scott Holcmb (D-Atlanta) following a press conference about his rape kit legislation Wednesday afternoon March 16, 2016. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

rape survivor Lisa Anderson talks with Rep. Scott Holcomb. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

“What’s ironic is that the Democrats used the issue as a wedge, but in the end I ended up using it as a negotiating tactic,” she said. “I got a lot of leverage. And I didn’t mind using the leverage because the system was working. If it was a do-or-die bill that was critical or sensitive, I wouldn’t have used it. But it was not. The infrastructure was working, and there’s no need for it.”

Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb, the measure’s chief sponsor, said he remains baffled by the opposition.

“I’m tired of this partisan nonsense. It’s the same song over and over without any basis in fact – just like the opposition to the bill,” said Holcomb. “The bill was bipartisan in the House and Senate. And that’s why it ultimately passed. Period, full stop, the end.”

More: Read about the long, strange journey of Georgia’s rape kit bill here.

 


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