Advocates Worry “Rape Kit Bill” is Underfunded

News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – HB 200 is quickly making it’s way through the Utah Legislature without opposition. Although the bill recently had it’s proposed funding cut in half. Victim’s advocates worry it could cause the same backlogs, but the bill’s sponsor said it’s still making a difference.

The bill would require a testing of all rape kits collected by law enforcement. The original $2.4 million was to fund more scientists for the state crime lab, processing of kits, and training for police. The current bill is now calling for just $1.2 million.

Rep. Angela Romero, (D) Salt Lake City, is the bill’s sponsor. She notes while it’s not the full amount originally requested there are several other programs asking for funding as well.

“It’s a starting point,” said Rep. Romero. “We’re investing one point 2 million dollars in ongoing funding and that’s showing victims that we as a state care about them.”

Victim’s Advocates worry the money requested is too low. The state crime lab said in earlier testimony the proposed funding would allow them to test 1200 kits a year, and they received nearly 1,000 in 2016.

Julie Valentine is a BYU Nursing Professor who’s studied the issue of untested rape kits in the state. She believes with so many law enforcement agencies adopting a test all kits policy. It would create issues even without the bill.

“We will move from a backlog of unsubmitted kits on law enforcement shelves to a back log at the crime lab,” said Valentine.

Even lawmakers who support the bill like Eric Hutchings, (R) Kearns, note this is about funding for this year. He points out the current ability to test rape kits in the state is maxed out.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a million dollars of funding that you could put toward rape kit testing that literally can’t be used,” said Rep. Hutchings. “So if it can be used and if we can process it that’s what we’re really trying to accomplish. We want to get as many of these done as we possibly can.”

Rep. Hutchings notes lawmakers can always approve more funding in the future. The bill is currently in the Senate Law Enforcement Committee and should get a hearing within a week.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.