Sunday, September 27, 2020
Sept. 27, 2020

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In Our View: Bills to hinder predators deserve consideration

The Columbian

Tiffany Hill didn’t live to have her day in court. But she is getting her time in the Legislature, as several bills that address the scourge of domestic violence are alive at this early point in the session.

Hill was the Vancouver mother who was murdered Nov. 26 by her estranged husband, as she sat in the driver’s seat of a minivan in the parking lot of a Hazel Dell elementary school. Her mother was wounded; the couple’s three children witnessed the shooting from the Toyota’s back seat.

The horror of that day, and the violent 10-year history of the Hills’ relationship, were the subject of a hearing last week before the Senate Law and Justice Committee in Olympia.

To Columbian readers, the story was already familiar: Keland Hill, who had a history of abusing his wife, had been released on bail from the Clark County Jail, where he had been lodged after being arrested on new domestic violence allegations. Although he was denied permission to buy a rifle in Oregon after his name popped up in a database, he somehow acquired a handgun. Violating a no-contact order, he went to Sarah J. Anderson Elementary School, where the children attended school, and waited for Tiffany Hill to appear. He shot her through the van’s windshield. He killed himself a few minutes later when sheriff’s deputies stopped his car and attempted to arrest him.

Keland Hill’s ability to thwart the multiple checks and balances already built into the justice system sounded the alarm that more needs to be done to protect victims. At least three bills are currently pending in this year’s legislative session.

Sen. Lynda Wilson’s Senate Bill 5149 would set up electronic monitoring systems. Predators would be required to wear a monitor, such as an ankle bracelet, and available technology could alert victims to the predator’s presence. In the Hill case, an investigation showed that Keland Hill lurked around the school for a half an hour before his wife appeared. Had she known he was there, she might have avoided him. The bill, now known as the Tiffany Hill Act, was passed out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Thursday.

Another proposal, House Bill 1056, counts Reps. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, and Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, among its backers. It would create a joint Legislative Task Force to review the role of the workplace in the lives of victims, study what the appropriate role employers and employees can play in reducing the risk to victims, and craft legislation to address the issue. The task force would include representatives from business organizations, labor groups, domestic violence advocates, a federally recognized tribe and others. This bill has already passed the House, and is now before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

A third bill, House Bill 2473, is also co-sponsored by Wylie and is currently before the House Committee on Public Safety. This bill would add language to include “domestic partners” as possible perpetrators of domestic violence, and also expands the types of prior criminal offenses that can be considered to elevate fourth-degree domestic violence assault to a felony. In other words, it would make it easier to mete out stronger punishment to repeat offenders.

Of course, we will never know if any of these bills would have saved Tiffany Hill’s life. Washington has long had domestic violence statutes, and Keland Hill chose to break them. But these bills deserve strong consideration. We need to make it more difficult for violent predators, and easier for their victims to stay safe.