HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed S.B. 104 into law Wednesday, designating the Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center as a criminal justice agency.
This designation will allow the Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory to build upon existing capabilities and infrastructure to provide DNA testing services and foster economic development.
S.B. 104 was unanimously approved by the Senate and House.
Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, introduced the bill and was the lead sponsor. Co-sponsors were Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.
Plymale, who has been a supporter of Marshall’s Forensic Science Center for over 20 years, said he was honored to be the lead sponsor of SB104 that passed with full bipartisan support.
“The criminal justice agency designation will create opportunity for economic development and support the long-term sustainability of the state’s valuable forensic DNA lab resource,” he said.
The House version was sponsored by Del. Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, as the lead sponsor.
“I was glad to recruit and receive the support of my fellow Judiciary Committee members to get this bill through our committee and advance this legislation that is so important for our community,” said Sobonya. “I am equally pleased the Governor signed this bill into law. This legislation will further strengthen the center’s partnership with the West Virginia State Police, help it tap into critical federal grant revenue, and become less reliant on dwindling state tax dollars.”
Co-sponsors of the House version were Delegates Carol Miller, R-Cabell; Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell; Jim Morgan, D-Cabell; Joshua Nelson, R-Boone; Anna Border-Sheppard, R-Wood; Rupert Phillips, Jr., D-Logan; Kenneth P. Hicks, D-Wayne; David G. Perry, D-Fayette; Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell; and Don C. Perdue, D-Wayne.
“We are pleased that we will be able to expand the scope of the Forensic Science Center with the new designation as a criminal justice agency,” Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said. “We extend our thanks to the Legislature and the governor for their support of the excellent work at the center.”
Dr. Terry W. Fenger, founding director of the center, said the passage of the bill creates a win-win situation for the state and Marshall’s Forensic Science Center.
“The designation expands opportunities for Marshall to develop partnerships with state and local forensic crime laboratories across the country to provide testing services to reduce criminal case backlogs, making these communities safer by helping to identify perpetrators,” Fenger said.
The Marshall University Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory is an ANAB internationally accredited DNA casework laboratory providing services including criminal casework analysis, training and research. See http://forensics.marshall.edu for more information.