- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers completed work Friday on a bill aimed at setting timelines to speed up the testing of rape kits as the state struggles with a massive backlog of untested kits.

The state House passed the bill without debate, sending it to Gov. Matt Bevin. He has proposed an additional $4.5 million for the state crime lab to help it meet new testing deadlines set by the bill.

“The legislature has said to victims of sexual assault, who have been waiting for justice, that they will wait no longer,” said Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel of Louisville, the bill’s lead sponsor.

The bill unanimously passed the state Senate last week. The legislation came in response to an investigation by former state Auditor Adam Edelen, who found last year that more than 3,000 rape kits were untested in the state police lab and in other police agencies across Kentucky.

A rape kit is a collection of physical evidence from a victim after a rape has occurred. Police check that evidence against a national database of DNA profiles to look for suspects.

It currently takes about eight months for a rape kit to be tested in Kentucky because of a lack of funding and staff. The bill aims to shorten that to 90 days by July 2018 and 60 days by 2020.

The bill requires law enforcement agencies in Kentucky to develop policies for handling DNA evidence from rape kits. It also sets timelines for submitting rape kits to the state police crime lab for review.

Victims would be notified of the progress and results of the testing.

The measure also calls for annual updates to lawmakers and the state auditor on average timelines for testing rape kits, Harper Angel said. That will allow lawmakers to monitor whether additional funding is needed to enable authorities to meet the testing timelines, she said.

State Auditor Mike Harmon applauded final passage of the bill. Harmon said Friday he made a pledge to Edelen, his predecessor, that he would continue the push for legislation so sexual assault victims “can perhaps gain justice” by ensuring that kits are tested in a timely manner.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 63.

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