Rape kit testing legislation gets boost from Gov. Bevin's budget

01/29/2016 03:28 PM

It may not be a huge amount, but several lawmakers and advocates say the $4.5 million identified in Gov. Matt Bevin’s two-year spending plan could make a world of difference to victims.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, had already filed a bill this session seeking $5 million to assist the Kentucky State Police and changes to ensure that the backlog of untested rape kits never returns to the state.

Harper Angel’s bill calls for the dollars to be transferred from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund fund in order to increase personnel and equipment with crime lab. The bill also calls for systemic changes to ensure victims receive swift justice.

Bevin’s budget also calls for pulling dollars from KLEFPF meant for law enforcement training to fund the crime lab. In Bevin’s budget he transfers $4.5 million from the fund directly to the state police.

In an interview prior to Bevin’s budget address on Tuesday, Harper Angel laid out how her bill would best set up policies and procedures to deal with the testing of rape kits.

The legislation would mandate that all kits must be picked up within five days and must be submitted to the forensic crime lab within 30 days.

The legislation also mandates that by July 2018 all kits tested within 90 days, and by July 2020 kits must be tested within 60 days. The bill, if passed, will also set up a procedure by which victims are notified once kits have been tested.

The bill also asks for the Legislative Research Commission to be notified of the average completion time for the kits in order to ensure the state never again sees a backlog.

Currently, there are no statutes on the books directing hospitals, law enforcement and other agencies on how to deal with sexual assault kits.

Because Harper Angel’s bill initially had a fiscal impact statement for the $5 million in crime lab funds, it was sent to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee for review.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield has also been contemplating filing similar legislation. The Hopkinsville Republican says he has concerns with pulling dollars from KLEFPF in order to prop up the KSP crime lab, though he sees the need to fund the crime lab.

That hesitancy on where the dollars are coming from is the main reason he has not filed a bill yet.

Where Harper Angel’s bill calls for timelines, Westerfield said that he wants to make sure the dollars are there to ensure that timelines are met, but he added that it is necessary to make changes to ensure that no back log exists again.

In 2015, the state found 3,090 untested rape kits in the commonwealth. That year the state was awarded a $1.9 million grant from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York City to test those kits.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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