Democrat Antonio Parkinson of Memphis

NASHVILLE— A bill that would require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to test all rape kits within 30 days of receipt has died after being left out of the Governor’s budget. The bill, (HB0104), sponsored by Democrat Antonio Parkinson of Memphis, was once again not included in next year’s proposed budget. Despite previously being recommended for passage by the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee, it did not receive funding at the subcommittee meeting today (Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee (A) ( Rep. Parkinson had filed similar legislation in 2014 to force all rape kits to be tested within 30 days but it was also unfunded.

According to the TBI, it currently takes months on average for a rape kit to be tested and results returned to the requesting law enforcement department. The length of time it has taken to test rape kits received national attention last September when Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped and killed while on her morning jog. It was later discovered that the man arrested and charged with the crime, Cleotha Henderson, had been linked to a rape case a year earlier. However, the rape kit that could possibly have had him arrested and off the street hadn’t even been tested at that time. Rep. Parkinson says if the rape kit had been tested in a timely manner, it’s possible that Henderson would have been incarcerated and unable to abduct and murder Fletcher.

Following the meeting, Representative Parkinson commented on the committee’s lack of action: “I am completely disappointed in the lack of action on the part of the Tennessee legislature to fund getting rape kits tested in 30 days. This is an exact repeat of what took place in 2014. Our inaction in 2014, played a part in the death of Eliza Fletcher. This is a slap in the face to all victims of rape in our state. We put $250 million into the rainy day fund that put us over $2 billion dollars. But we wouldn’t fund $5 million to test rape kits in 30 days. We can do better.”