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Washington set to create one-stop hate crimes hotline

Author: Donald Padgett

A bill creating a hotline to help victims of hate crimes and bias incidents was passed by the Washington state House on Wednesday, after passing the Senate on February 7.

Senate Bill 5427 would create and staff a hotline to provide information and referrals for appropriate care and counseling to victims of bias incidents and hate crimes in the state. Staff would be authorized to share contact information with police for those wishing to report a crime. The bill also had hard targets for implementation and reporting requirements.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Javier Valdez of Seattle. It now awaits Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature to become law.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson lauded the bill’s passage.

“We must stand up to the hate crimes targeting Washington communities,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement lauding the bill. “Creating this hotline will provide a centralized location for Washingtonians to report hate crimes and bias incidents. This will improve our state’s response to these incidents and increase public safety.”

The bill directs the Attorney General’s Office to test a pilot hotline in at least three counties by July 1, 2025, and have the hotline up and running statewide by January 1, 2027. The bill also requires the Attorney General to publish an annual report with information on hate crimes and bias incidents.

An earlier version of the bill stalled last year in part because of disagreement over using state funds to compensate victims of hate crimes and bias incidents. Victims could have been eligible for payments of up to $2,000 from a special fund, but that section was stripped for this year’s revised bill.

The previous version of the bill also would have authorized hotline staff members to accept reports of hate crimes and bias incidents. The bill passed by the House and Senate this year instead only authorizes hotline staff to pass along information about the incident to police if authorized by the victim.

Ferguson thanked Valdez for his two-year effort getting the legislation passed in the House and Senate.

“I thank Sen. Valdez for his leadership on the hate crimes task force and for bringing forth this legislation, and for the many advocates who joined my office in supporting this policy,” Ferguson said.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Donald Padgett

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