JEFFERSON CITY — Legislators wanting to help tackle the state's backlog of sexual assault evidence kits identified money for that purpose during a Senate Appropriations Committee this week.
The committee dedicated $3 million in federal funds to the Attorney General's Office, which would be obtained by applying for grant money through the U.S. Department of Justice. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative provides money to states to inventory and test kits and provide resources to victims of sexual assault.The effort was spearheaded by Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, who proposed the amendment to the budget on Wednesday.
"I think there's tremendous opportunity here to potentially increase this federal spending authority," Rowden said.
A Missourian investigation last year revealed that no one knows how many untested sexual assault evidence kits there are, and the state has never done a full audit of the kits. Attorney General Josh Hawley announced shortly after the Missourian investigation that his office would conduct an audit.
The Senate version of the budget was passed Wednesday night by the appropriations committee and will now go to the full Senate, where amendments can be made. It will then go to a conference committee, where representatives and senators will work hash out their differences and complete the final version.
On Thursday, an expansive bill passed the House that includes a provision to allocate more money from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund to the state's crime labs, which process sexual assault evidence kits, among other evidence.
The compensation fund comes from certain court fees. Currently, $250,000 from the fund goes to crime labs each year. The bill would set that as a minimum, and allow up to $1 million to go to the labs.
Brendan Crowley contributed to this report.