Politics

A state Senate committee unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that would set deadlines for law enforcement to test sexual assault kits.

An investigation from former state Auditor Adam Edelen’s office last year showed there are more than 3,000 untested rape kits in the state, and 41 percent of Kentucky law enforcement agencies don’t submit all kits to the state crime lab.

The bill would require hospitals to submit sexual assault kits to law enforcement within 24 hours of collecting evidence. Local law enforcement would have 30 days to submit the kits to the state crime lab. The crime lab would then have 90 days to analyze the evidence by 2018 and 60 days by 2020.

The legislation also requires that those who complete sexual assault kits be notified of the progress of the testing.

Sen. Denise Harper-Angel, a Democrat from Louisville and the bill’s primary sponsor, said the legislation “ensures swift justice for victims, takes criminals off the streets and protects future generations.”

Although the original version of the bill set aside more funding for the state crime lab to test kits, the substituted version that passed the committee Thursday leaves the funding to budget writers.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Matt Bevin set aside $4.5 million to expedite sexual assault kit testing.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, said he didn’t want to mandate the fast-tracked testing policy in case funding falls through in the budget process.

“Since we don’t yet know whether or not that’s going to stay or how much it will be if it does stay, I want to make sure we didn’t hold the lab accountable to a timeline that they couldn’t meet today if they had to,” Westerfield said.

Lawmakers have until April 13 to approve a budget.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.