NC Senate budget to fund testing of old rape kits

NC Senate budget to fund testing of old rape kits

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - The budget set to be released by the North Carolina Senate next week will include money to test all untested sexual assault kits across the state, according to a source with knowledge of the budget, who asked not to be named to discuss legislation that had not yet been released.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, has worked with Republican leaders of the state legislature for two years to determine how many untested rape kits exist across the state and, now, to find money to test all of them.

An audit of untested rape kits released in the spring of 2018 found 15,000 untested kits on shelves of police departments across the country. Some kits are decades old.

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As a result of the audit, some money has already been appropriated and other money has been found through grants to begin testing those kits, which have already helped solve cold cases and lead to arrests.

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers worked with Stein to propose legislation that would appropriate additional money to process all of the remaining untested kits, which Stein’s office has estimated will cost roughly $6 million.

The budget passed by the North Carolina House earlier this month allocations a total of $6 million over two years -- $3 million each year of the biennium -- to process untested kits.

The Senate budget, the source told WBTV, will appropriate $3 million to process untested kits in the first year and then require whatever money is necessary to process the balance of the untested kits be spent in the second year.

A spokeswoman for Stein’s office said she had not seen the Senate budget but welcomed news that both chambers appeared poised to fully fund the testing of old rape kits.

“Our office certainly is hopeful that the legislature will fund testing these kits as they are the biggest public safety crisis in our state, but until we see the budget I can’t comment any further,” Stein’s spokeswoman Laura Brewer said.

Senate appropriators are expected to unveil their budget next week. Once their budget it approved, both legislative chambers will have to meet and iron out differences between the two proposals before passing a final budget that will then go to Governor Roy Cooper.

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