AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

AJC Watchdog: The best of what you missed

It's Monday! Time to skip that meeting and catch up on some of the best watchdog journalism that you may have missed.

House Bill 838, which guarantees insurance agents at least a 5 percent commission on health coverage sales to small businesses hit a roadblock yesterday in the Senate Insurance Committee today. Following this story by AJC Capitol reporters James Salzer and Aaron Gould Sheinin, most of the committee members recused themselves, fearing a conflict of interest. The bill's sponsor, House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, is an insurance agent himself. It's one of several instances where watchdogs say state lawmakers push legislation for personal benefit. That's allowed thanks to Georgia's weak conflict-of-interest rules. Read that crucial story here.

Another piece of legislation that aims to unclog a backlog of untested rape kits is being held up by one of the most powerful women under the Gold Dome. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Sen. Rene Unterman , R-Buford, said she does not believe  House Bill 827  is needed, despite the urging of state prosecutors, police chiefs, hospitals and victims groups. Find out more about that political struggle here. 

In more legislative news, don't miss the story on an effort to bring more independence to the prosecution of police-involved killings. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman William T Ligon, Jr., R-Brunswick, is trying to get a provision requiring a special prosecutor in these cases tacked on to House Bill 941, which would end special privileges police receive when testifying before a grand jury. Prosecutors hate this bill. You can find out why here.

While you are catching up, don't forget to check out the most recent AJC Watchdog column which takes a look at reforms to the state's administration of the $2.3 billion federally funded food stamps program. State administrators say they now have a hold on problems with the system that caused the United States Department of Agriculture to threaten to withhold $76 million in administrative funding.

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Joyner’s column, AJC Watchdog, investigates topics in your community and Georgia.