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Eye On Olympia

The Honorable State Master Robert Hill…

has been turning up at legislative hearings lately, and it's always interesting.

Hill is apparently a colorful fixture at Tacoma-area government meetings and a legislative candidate. As a candidate, Robert "The Traveller" Hill (his chosen monicker and spelling)has proferred a diverse agenda of policy ideas, including making prostitution the lowest law enforcement priority, encouraging strip and massage clubs, fewer police, demolishing the Tacoma Dome. He also had a proposal for a new, female-only holiday.

He ran last year for Tacoma city council. When a reporter from the Tacoma Daily Index asked how old he was, Hill responded:

"I don't really know," he says. "I don't have personal knowledge. But through hearsay and other documentation, I'm in my thirties."

In Olympia, his attention seems to be focused mainly on guns.

He showed up one morning to testify in favor of firearms on college campuses, helpfully pulling out a hollowpoint bullet to show lawmakers.

And last week, Hill turned up at a hearing on an otherwise-unexceptional bill to steer some money to block-watch-type anti-crime programs. The bill, by Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, is aimed at things like neighborhood signs and classes.

Hill stands out a bit in a room full of blue- and gray-suited lobbyists, and not just because he starts off with "Shalom" and introduces himself as The Honorable State Master Robert Hill.

He favors a blue nylon jacket, a black cap, and carries a large aluminum briefcase. But it's the ankle holster that tends to get people's attention. More on that in a bit.

Speaking at the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Hill introduced himself and started out in the sort of hypnotic, droning policy-speak that's the lingua franca of legislative hearings:

"I see the substitute as being an improvement on the bulleted on the purple sheet, reducing the appropriation to $48,000...considering that the first clause clarifies the availability of funds..." etc.

Then, his voice rising, he got to the meat of the matter: the money is too little for the sort of crime-deterrance he favors: Handing out guns. (The bill says nothing about buying guns for anyone.)

"If it were to stay at 48,000, that barely buys 120, you know, pistols,"

Hill said, as lawmakers glanced around at each other.

"And with tax, it's only going to be about 100. And with the holster, whether it's an ankle holster..."

At this point, he pulled up his pant leg to show that he was wearing such an ankle holster, although it was unclear from my seat in the back of the room whether there was anything in it. As Senate security staff circled close behind him, Hill continued:

"...or a hip holster, at 40 bucks each, that's not going to buy a whole lot of holsters…You're going to have to buy, you know, revolvers, and or semi- manuals and the holsters and your training and the staff, and $48,000 just isn't going to cut it."

During this, Sen. Rodney Tom got up and left, and Sen. Brian Weinstein seemed to jokingly pantomime ducking behind his desk. But committee chairman Adam Kline was unfazed.

"Thank you very much," Kline said, moving on to the next person scheduled to testify.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.