Editor's note: House Bill 1729 got final approval from the Texas House on April 6.
A bill that would crowdfund money from Texans to deal with a state backlog of thousands of untested rape kits tentatively passed the Texas House Wednesday on a voice vote.
"Today we have an opportunity to bring justice to women, to victims, to survivors of sexual assault," said state Rep. Victoria Neave, regarding House Bill 1729, which was the freshman representative's first to reach the House floor.
The legislation would give those applying or renewing their driver’s license an option to donate $1 or more toward rape kit testing.
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These kits, gathered by police through hours-long, invasive exams of sexual assault victims, can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to analyze, according to Neave, a Dallas Democrat. The measure is estimated to collect about $1 million a year, she said.
Both the House and Senate currently call for about $4 million in funding for sexual assault kit testing in their proposed budgets. The House wants to get the funding from Rainy Day Fund. The Senate wants to draw from general revenue, a pot of money that normally makes up about half of the state budget.
After the Department of Public Safety reported a backlog of 20,000 untested rape kits ahead of the 2013 session, lawmakers pumped $11 million into addressing it. But more than 3,500 of those identified kits are still untested — meaning they haven't been analyzed in more than five years.
The agency has not updated its statewide rape kit backlog data since 2011. The actual amount of untested kits in Texas today is probably much higher.
Neave's bill still requires a final, record vote before it can proceed to the Senate. (Update, April 6: The Texas House gave its final approval to HB 1729 on Thursday.)