A bill to provide electronic monitoring and real-time victim notification is close to becoming state law, three months after a Vancouver woman was killed by her estranged husband.
The Washington House voted 96-0 Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 5149, named “The Tiffany Hill Act.” The former Marine sergeant was shot and killed Nov. 26 in her minivan outside Sarah J. Anderson Elementary School.
Hill’s husband had been arrested Sept. 11 for domestic violence. He was free on bail and blocked by court order from having any contact with Hill when he shot his wife and mother-in-law, who survived her injuries, in front of the couple’s three children. He killed himself following a short police chase.
This is the third year Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, has sponsored the bill.
Wilson and Tanya Wollstein, the Vancouver police detective who worked on Hill’s case, said they believe the proposed law would have saved Hill’s life if her husband had been required to wear an electronic monitor and she had received an electronic alert that he was nearby.
“The concept is simple,” Wilson said in a statement released following Wednesday’s vote. “When the abuser or stalker gets closer than the court allows, you get an alert on your phone. Tiffany Hill’s story makes it even easier to understand how this could benefit any number of the thousands of people who obtain restraining orders each year.”
The Senate unanimously approved SB 5149 on Jan. 31. The legislation will have to go back to the Senate for its concurrence after a minor amendment was made on the House floor Wednesday to provide greater specificity for when a victim would receive notification.
That formality should be completed in the next eight days, before the 2020 session adjourns March 12. Following the Senate’s concurrence, the legislation will be forwarded to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
“We’re almost there,” Wilson said in her statement. “I’ve said again and again how this bill needs to become law this year, and I’m completely confident that will happen. It’s simply a matter of putting on the finishing touches.”
Several of Hill’s friends, some wearing “Anderson Strong” shirts, were present in the gallery and received an ovation from the House following Wednesday’s vote.
House floor remarks
Three representatives from Clark County — Democrats Monica Stonier and Sharon Wylie and Republican Vicki Kraft — spoke in favor of the bill’s passage on the House floor.
“I wish we didn’t need this bill, but I am very, very proud to speak in support of it,” Wylie said. “We surely needed it in Clark County.”
Hill did everything possible to protect herself following her husband’s arrest, Wylie said.
“This tool wasn’t available, but it might have saved her life,” she said. “I wish we had done it earlier when we had a chance. But we can do it now.”
Stonier thanked Wollstein and Lauren Boyd, a Clark County deputy prosecutor, for trying to prevent Hill’s death.
“Our systems and our laws failed Tiffany and her children,” Stonier said. “Her friends around her saw this coming. Law enforcement saw this coming.”
Kraft thanked Wilson for sponsoring the legislation.
“It is sad to think that there was a real life lost and that her children are literally without their mother,” Kraft said. “Thankfully now, we have the opportunity in this body to stand for victims like Tiffany Hill.”
69 violations in one month
During a brief hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Saturday, Wilson said Hill’s husband violated a court’s protective order 69 times in one month before he killed his wife.
“He tried to buy a gun in Oregon,” Wilson said. “He was denied. He came over here. He stole a gun, and that’s how he killed her.”
Wilson also read portions of a letter written by Wollstein imploring legislators to approve SB 5149.
“By passing this bill, you’re not only protecting victims of domestic violence but the general public, including your own family,” Wollstein wrote. “An abuser who has decided he has nothing to lose and is willing to kill represents a grave threat to everyone in the community.
“In addition, the passing of this bill will show the public and especially victims of domestic violence that their legislators care about them and are willing to take action to protect their safety.”
Wollstein also connected domestic violence to mass killings.
“Several mass shootings in the United States have been directly related to domestic violence,” the detective wrote in her letter. “Many innocent, uninvolved people have been murdered simply because they worked or went to church with a victim of domestic violence.”