Hate crime and bias hotline to be established in Washington State under new bill

A 2023 version of the bill included $2,000 in compensation “…per person targeted or affected by a specific hate crime or bias incident.”

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
A bill that would create a new hotline in Washington to report “hate crimes and bias incidents” is headed to the Democrat Governor Jay Inslee’s desk where he is expected to sign it.

Senate Bill 5427 passed the Democratic-controlled State House on Wednesday and was mostly opposed by Republicans.

According to the legislation, the attorney general’s office "shall oversee a hate crimes and bias incidents hotline staffed during business hours and dedicated to assisting people who have been targeted or affected by hate crimes and bias incidents."

The new hotline will "identify local service providers and culturally specific services" to assist "historically underserved communities," as well as create an advisory committee with "diverse and inclusive representation" to provide support.

The bill mandates that a pilot program is required to be up and running in at least 3 of the state’s counties by July 2025 and operating statewide by January 2027.

The attorney general’s office will be required to provide data on hate crimes and bias incidents from the hotline in an annual report to the public by July 2027.

In 2023, the legislation failed to pass out of the Washington Senate’s Ways and Means Committee.

The 2023 version also included $2,000 in compensation “…per person targeted or affected by a specific hate crime or bias incident.”

The bill originally stated, "The attorney general's office may provide compensation to persons targeted or affected by hate crimes and bias incidents by authorizing expenditures from the Washington hate crime and bias incident account, established in section 3 of this act, up to a maximum of $2,000 per person targeted or affected by a specific hate crime or bias incident, subject to the availability of funds in the account and the requirements of this act."
At the time, critics slammed the legislation during public comment on the bill, calling it a "tattletale hotline" that would be "wide open" for people to "cash in."

Conservative Ladies of Washington founder and president Julie Barrett told the committee, "Spend five minutes on Twitter on any given day and I assure you someone would say something offensive under this law that we could call a ‘hate crime’ and collect $2,000 from the attorney general.” 

She continued, "It potentially targets people for actions they don’t like but are not actually hate crimes…this would create sort of a 'tattletale hotline' to report people one doesn't agree with or doesn't like."

The passed legislation does not include compensation.

According to Fox News, in 2019, state Democrats adjusted the definition of hate crimes to include when a perpetrator “…intentionally or maliciously causes physical harm to another person based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, nationality and other identities,” making it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and/or a $100,000 fine.
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