A last-ditch bid to revive a stalled bill to collect and count neglected sexual assault evidence cleared a hurdle Thursday morning by passing the state House in a unanimous vote.
Senate Bill 304 became a vehicle for the Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act, which passed unanimously earlier this session as House Bill 827 before being held up in the Senate. Despite vocal opposition from victim advocates and women’s groups. State Sen. Renee Unterman blocked it from a required hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee, which she chairs.
It now bypasses Unterman’s committee, but must be approved by the Senate by midnight.
Unterman said there was no need pass statewide legislation for a problem in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Yet untested rape kits have been found in other jurisdictions, including at the Gwinnett police department, which covers the Buford Republican’s home county. As many as 1,400 rape kits may have gone untested in Georgia in 2014 alone, according to state estimates.
Bill sponsor Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat, refuted Unterman’s claims before Thursday’s vote.
“It is a fact that today in our state rape kits are sitting on shelves, not moving forward,” Holcomb said. “It is a fact that today, we have no statewide policy to ensure the timely processing of rape kits. It is a fact that we do not know the overall extent of the problem, but it is not a problem limited only to Fulton County.”
House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, signaled his support by reminding members during debate on the bill that it received bipartisan support.