State Representative Coomer updated the audience on the Journey Ann Cowart Act, which he introduced to the Georgia House of Representatives last year.
“This bill was named after 1-year-old Journey Ann Cowart, who died under circumstances that appeared that she was killed by her mother and boyfriend,” Coomer said. “She had extensive injuries and an autopsy revealed she had suffered previous abuse.”
The bill would transfer the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel from the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The intent, he said, was to give the state review panel the resources needed to investigate child abuse-related deaths in order to prevent recurring child abuse. It also sets straight some provisions regarding open records laws requirements that applies to child abuse investigative agencies like DFACs.
“There’s been a problem with these child review committees being able to get access to certain kinds of information when they’re reviewing a child’s death.” Coomer said. “By changing the committee, which is really an investigative committee in its nature, under the primary law enforcement agency of the state, that is the GBI, and giving them additional means to acquire that sensitive information in their investigation, we hope will make the process of review and recommending changes more efficient and more meaningful for the committee. That way we can ultimately reach the goal of reducing the instances of child fatality by child abuse in Georgia.”
Coomer believed the bill has a “very strong” chance of being passed by both the House and the Senate. He also thought Gov. Nathan Deal would likely sign it, adding the governor supports it.
Coomer also said Georgia continues to balance the budget without raising taxes.
“Georgia has the lowest overall tax burden per citizen of any state in the country,” he said. “So what we have done is not increase taxes but we have increased revenues, which is part of the conservative philosophy about government. I’m very proud we have been able to do that.”
Thompson was elected in 2013 to fill the term of former State Senator Barry Loudermilk, who resigned to pursue a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m the new kid on the block,” Thompson said. “but you didn’t elect me to go down to the Capitol and sit on the sidelines. So I went down and started asking questions.”
Thompson said the first bill he supported was the autism bill.
“I took a little heat for this,” he said. “I’m about as red and conservative as you can get. The bill simply said that autism should be covered on insurance plans. It would cost less than 50 cents to add autism to insurance coverage but if we don’t do it, by the time they enter the education system, the average cost is $12,000 to 15,000 to cover them. If we don’t provide those kids with a chance early on, then we will pay as taxpayers later. It’s a fiscal decision.”
Thompson said when he first heard about the cannabis bill he thought, “What in the world? Are we trying to be another Colorado?”
“But when you strip everything away, this isn’t about medical marijuana,” he said. “Cannabis is a plant and it has one ingredient that when extracted as an oil has been proven to prevent seizures in children. I was against it, against it, against it until I met some of the people affected and you see how much it has changed these folks lives. I’m not a doctor but I know if I had a child who was having two or three hundred seizures, and I could give them some medicine that would reduce that, lock me up because i’m going to do whatever I can for my child.”
Thompson said although they were unable to get either the autism or the cannabis bills done, they have the opportunity to go back and work further on them.