AUSTIN, Texas -- With thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in labs across Texas, one lawmaker is trying to increase the transparency surrounding each one of those investigations.
With a backlog of more than 19,000 untested rape kits plaguing the state, Democratic Representative Donna Howard wants to create an electronic database for sexual assault investigations.
"This is a very important piece of legislation in terms of making sure that we're honoring and respecting sexual assault victims," Representative Howard said on the House floor Tuesday.
The measure saw unanimous support from Texas Representatives, passing an initial vote. If enacted, victims would be able to securely access information surrounding their case. Representative Howard says the electronic tracking system would also help authorities keep track of evidence as it moves between facilities, ensuring it doesn't get lost in the process.
Rape victim advocates are cheering the legislation.
"We're thrilled with the attention sexual assault is getting this session," said Coni Stogner, the Vice President of SAFE, an organization that cares for rape victims. "It really shows that there's a commitment among our lawmakers to work together to try to put things in place that will help survivors."
And while the database is expected to cost about $1.5 million in the upcoming budget cycle, there are also calls to invest more into solving Texas' rape kit backlog.
"We really need to have prioritization and strong support from the government to have these kits tested, and have the resources available to do so," Stogner said.
One funding solution for the rape kit backlog tentatively passed the House last week. It wouldn't come from additional state funding, but would instead rely on $1 donations from drivers renewing their licenses.