Women’s caucus pushes DNA law
Authorities would be able to collect DNA evidence from anyone arrested on felony charges under a proposal being introduced by the Legislature's women's caucus.
Proposals from all groups are being touted this week as the Legislature opens the 2008 session today.
House and Senate Republicans, outnumbered 4-to-1 in both chambers, also outlined their package of proposals this week. Majority Democrats have not yet released their package of bills.
The women's caucus, composed of women from both chambers and both political parties, unveiled yesterday its package of proposals dedicated to former Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki.
"This is a real honor," Saiki said. "When women honor women, that's terrific."
Proposals focus on education, health, human services and public safety.
"We promote people that have to balance work and family," Rep. Hermina Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa) said of the caucus' mission. "When we promote economic and societal well-being of women, we promote economical and societal well-being of families."
The DNA law is patterned after a national movement known as Katie's Law, after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was raped, murdered and set on fire in 2003. Authorities captured her killer several months later, helped largely by DNA recovered from skin and blood of the suspect that was found under Sepich's fingernails.
"That was one way they found the rapist," said Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head).
Under current law, authorities can collect DNA samples only from convicted felons. The samples are placed in a database accessible to law enforcement for the purpose of identifying suspects in other crimes.
So far, 11 states have adopted Katie's Law legislation, according to katieslaw.org.
Republicans face an uphill fight in getting their proposals passed.
With only 13 members -- nine of 51 in the House, four of 25 in the Senate -- the GOP proposals will need support from Democrats.
Less ambitious but perhaps more realistic Republican proposals call for an audit of the Department of Education, stricter drunken driving laws and more transparency in grant awards.
"Business as usual from the majority party has not and will not address our larger problems, especially in the area of our biggest expenditure, education," said Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.