Lawmakers send SAFE Act requiring faster turnaround time on sexual assault kits to Gov. Matt Bevin

03/25/2016 04:40 PM

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly has approved legislation calling for all sexual assault forensic kits in the commonwealth to be tested in a more timely manner

Senate Bill 63 requires all sexual assault kits be submitted to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory and the average completion date for assault kit testing not to exceed 90 days by July 2018. That time frame would drop to 60 days by July 2020 under the legislation.

SB 63’s sponsor, Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, said the legislation may be “the best thing I ever do.”

“This legislation will protect generations to come, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it,” Harper Angel said.

“This is a tremendous victory for sexual assault survivors across the Commonwealth,” Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs Executive Director Eileen Recktenwald said. “Senate Bill 63 will bring survivors more justice, improve public safety and help law enforcement catch more criminals.”

The bill, also known as the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Act, will now head to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk for his signature or veto. Bevin included $4.5 million for upgrades to the Kentucky State Police crime lab in his version of the two-year spending plan.

The state House included the funds in their version of the budget along with an additional $3.6 million set aside to support fees in the prosecutions of cases tied to the backlog of untested rape kits still awaiting testing in Kentucky.

The Senate version of the budget also includes $4.5 million for upgrades to the state police, but strips the prosecution dollars. Those budgets are now being negotiated by House and Senate leaders.

The legislation mirrors many of the recommendations made by former Auditor Adam Edelen in his audit from 2015. Current Auditor Mike Harmon is in favor of the changes and had vowed on the campaign trail to keep up the work started by Edelen.

“We at the Auditor’s office are pleased that legislation to address the thousands of untested rape kits our auditors uncovered is one step closer to becoming law,” Harmon said. “I want to personally thank Sen. Denise Harper Angel for her work and leadership on addressing this issue, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield for working with Sen. Angel on a bipartisan solution.

“When I was a member of the House of Representatives in 2015, I voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 20 that directed the Auditor of Public Accounts to conduct a study,” he added. “I also made a pledge to my predecessor, former Auditor Adam Edelen that whoever was elected to this position last November would continue to push for legislative change, so the Kentuckians who have been impacted can perhaps gain justice as we push forward with getting these and other kits tested in a timely manner.”


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