PHOENIX - Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Tuesday that now establishes time limits, standards and other requirements for the processing of rape kits in Arizona, the governor’s office announced in a release.
The bill (HB 2268), a release read, was sponsored by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) and requires health care facilities to notify law enforcement within 24 hours when a sexual assault kit is collected. Then law enforcement agencies must submit the kit for testing within 15 days.
"As part of the legislation, we are having an annual reporting requirement, so we know what's been tested, what hasn't been tested and why it hasn't been tested," Rep. Syms said.
The bill passed the House and Senate with unanimous support, according to a release.
The reports will be analyzed in an effort to address problem areas that will continue to strengthen the law.
“This effort demonstrates what can be achieved by working together to fix a serious problem,” Ducey said in the release. “Until recently, the state didn’t even know the number of untested rape kits in Arizona, which turned out to be in the thousands."
According to Rep. Syms, at one point the state's backlog was more than 6,000 kits and since the issue has become an area of focus for the governor and legislators, that number has been steadily declining.
Arizona's stacks of untested kits isn't unique, but instead a symptom of a nationwide problem.
"There are a lot of ways to look at this problem. One, of course, is resources," said Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. "It costs money to test a kit."
The foundation advocates on behalf of sexual assault survivors and has observed funding to be the biggest roadblock for states that have enacted similar legislation.
"It's kind of a patchwork quilt out there right now and I think a lot of states are just starting to implement and it's going to be a while before we can tell what laws will work the best," she said.
Knecht pointed to Kentucky as an example of one of states that has been largely successful in passing comprehensive legislation that is working, noting the strong collaboration between multiple state agencies.