Texas Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) was the only one out of 30 Texas Senators to vote against a bill that would crowdfund money for the testing of the state’s backlog of untested rape kits. HB 1729 was passed in a voice vote in the House of Representatives on April 5 before passing in the Senate 29-1 on Wednesday. The legislation would give those renewing or applying for their driver’s license an option to donate $1 or more toward rape kit testing. The option would resemble the way Texans are asked if they want to donate to support veterans or organ donation.
Hall provided a written statement to KETR explaining the motivation behind his vote. Hall seems to think that the bill would provide a disincentive for the testing to be paid for out of the state’s tax-generated funds. Hall’s statement:
"Rape kit testing is far too important to rely on an undependable funding source like crowdfunding. This is a core function of government and as such it should be funded by government. Victims deserve to know that the test kits will be quickly and thoroughly processed. Depending on donations to solve serious crimes like rape is irresponsible. There is more than enough money currently in state government corporate welfare programs like the Enterprise Fund, Major Events Fund or the Music/Film Fund to fully fund Rape Kit Testing today. I would support moving money from one of these unnecessary and non-core function government programs to the testing of rape kits. Government relying on donations for serious work is irresponsible and would be a disincentive for proper government funding."
The bill was authored by Rep. Victoria Neave (D-Dallas), who said that the kits cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 to analyze. Neave estimated revenue from the crowdfunding proposal could total about $1 million annually.
More than 3,200 rape kits in Texas remain untested, according to Texas Department of Public Safety statistics released in 2011. The data have not been updated since then. The backlog is mainly a matter of funding rather than a matter of human resources. The state outsources much of the testing to private companies.
Texas is not alone in its backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Legislators in 26 other states have filed bills addressing the problem during this year’s sessions.
KERA news reported that when Michigan started testing 10,000 untested kits, it identified more than 780 suspected serial rapists. It led to dozens of convictions, and connected crimes in 40 states. In Ohio, evidence from old rape kits connected a man to 15 sexual assaults.
Neave does not see the crowdfunding proposal as a primary means of paying for the testing, but as a way to help the state deal with the current backlog.
"It shouldn't get to the point of us having to ask individuals to contribute," Neave said. "But I believe in the hearts and compassion of our fellow Texans that a dollar here, a dollar there, and all of us working together can generate funds to help these women and victims of sexual assault get justice."