After Passing Florida Legislature Unanimously, Rape Kits Testing Bill Heads To Gov. Scott

Mar 2, 2016

Credit MGN Online

A bill aimed at helping to address the state’s rape kits backlog is now heading to the Governor, after passing the Florida Legislature unanimously.

Last week, the Florida Senate unanimously passed Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto’s (R-Fort Myers) bill.

“So, imagine if you were one of those individuals and the evidence that was needed to bring the perpetrator of the crime against you to justice,” she said, at the time. “You would not have that evidence at your disposal, and I want to thank the entire Senate for sticking up for victims and the attention that they deserve is given.”

On Wednesday of this week, the Florida House also unanimously voted for the bill carried by  Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach). The issue is personal to her because she knows of a family member who was sexually assaulted.

“Rape kit backlogs have been an issue across the country. In Florida alone, we have over 13 unsubmitted kits,” she said. “[Senate Bill] 636 requires the timely submission and testing of DNA evidence collected in association with sexual assault investigations.”

And, according to an assessment by Florida Department of Law Enforcement, about 9,400 of the state’s untested rape kits are recommended for testing.

Adkins’ bill sets guidelines, requiring the evidence has to be submitted within 30 days, and the evidence has to be tested within 120 days.

Rep. Lori Berman (D-Lantana) applauded Adkins for her work on the bill.

“Representative Adkins, it’s been a huge embarrassment for our state that we have this backlog, and I’m so happy that we’re finally addressing it,” she said. “And, I appreciate you bringing this good bill forward.”

Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) also liked the bill.

“I will tell you that the individuals, the state employees over at FDLE who are working hard to try and bring justice to these women in our state, they are going to benefit from this. Women in our state will benefit from this,” he said. “Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers will benefit from this. To the person that I sat by when I first came to this chamber for an organizational session, Representative Janet Adkins, this is going to be a signature bill. Thank you for your leadership. I’m proud to vote for it today.”

So far, the House and Senate criminal justice budget chairs have agreed to $2.3 million to assist the state’s crime labs in taking care of the backlog.

And, Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) says Adkins’ bill and that allocation go hand in hand.

“I want to thank the sponsor, and I want to thank our Attorney General and so many others who have really championed this issue, and not only the policy that we’re passing, but also the budget, which by my reading fully funds what FDLE requested to deal with the backlog. So, thank you for your leadership on this, and I guess thank you to all of us, who are collectively I guess making this decision with our budget.”

In a statement, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi—whose made this one of her top priorities—called it a “significant step.” But, she says as the budget continues to get worked on, they make sure funding is still available by the end of session to begin the testing of the unprocessed kits.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.