AUGUSTA — An effort to fund a unit of law enforcement officers to reopen unsolved homicide cases advanced Tuesday in the Maine Senate.

The Legislature passed a bill last year to create the cold case homicide unit in the attorney general’s office but failed to appropriate the necessary funding. With no state money available, the state looked for federal funding but found none.

A bill by Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, would provide state funding for the unit, starting in July 2016. The bill, LD 1121, would pay for two Maine State Police detective positions and one forensic chemist position. The total cost for the three positions, for one year, is about $447,000.

Valentino’s bill passed unanimously in the Senate, without debate, on Tuesday. It’s expected to sail through the House, which approved the cold case unit bill last year.

But that doesn’t guarantee the funding will come. If the bill wins approval in the House and becomes law, it will still end up on the Appropriations Table, where budget negotiators will have to find the funding. If they don’t, then the cold case squad will be put on ice again, just like last year.

Valentino, a member of the Appropriations Committee, has pledged to not let that happen.

“We all know that if you want a bill funded, you need to get it in the budget, and I will do everything I can to fight for this bill to be included in the budget we are working on,” she said in written testimony in support of the bill’s passage.

The effort to create a cold case squad has drawn support from bereaved families of murder victims whose killers have evaded police. There are about 70 cold homicide cases throughout the state.

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