State House passes formation of nation’s first statewide ‘Office of Equity’

Gregerson sponsors bill to reduce systemic disparities

Mia Gregerson

Mia Gregerson

Legislation (House Bill 1783) aimed at reducing systemic disparities within Washington state government passed off the House floor 56-41 on Monday in Olympia.

The bill would set up an Office of Equity within the Governor’s Office and would be tasked with helping state agencies identify practices that perpetuate systemic inequities, recommending best practices and providing implementation and training assistance, according to a House Democrats news release. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

While many state agencies in Washington are engaged in reducing systemic disparities, there is no current coordinated statewide plan. This has left state agencies encountering challenges in the development and sharing of resources across state agencies. The Office of Equity would streamline the process. If enacted into law, it would be the first statewide office of its kind anywhere in the nation.

“This is about bringing equality for all to every community in Washington,” said Rep. Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, who sponsored the legislation and whose District 33 includes part of Kent. “Inequities impacting historically marginalized people run deep and they come at far too great a social and economic cost.”

House Bill 1783 was introduced during the 2019 legislative session. While the bill was not passed last session, a proviso in the 2019 – 2020 operating budget (House Bill 1109) founded the Office of Equity Task Force. Throughout the interim, the task force opened public comment and held public meetings across the state in Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima Valley and Olympia.

“The Office of Equity is the right action at the right time to help assure every person in Washington has a fair and promising opportunity to thrive,” said Dr. Benjamin Danielson, co-chair of the task force. “To help envision the office, a task force has worked diligently to hear from a broad set of communities and has operated with a commitment to bold action. Through the task force’s efforts state government entities will enhance their abilities to be responsive to communities, will utilize the best tools to measure their equity work and will be accountable to deliver on their roles in making lives better across the state.”

“I have confidence in the collective wisdom and courage of the task force to want to get this right and set a different course for our children and the generations to come,” said Jan Olmstead, who co-chairs the task force. “[This] is an important step forward to securing an equitable future for those historically disregarded and harmed by the existence of systemic inequities built within our state structures.”

“Disparities in Black and African American communities exist due to the way systems were formed. Our systems are not inclusive for Black and African American communities, women, people with disabilities, and people identifying as LGBTQ+,” said Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland. “The creation of the Office of Equity will help to ensure we are truly addressing the needs of ALL Washingtonians as we begin to pave new roads to the ‘American Dream.’”

The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to conclude on March 12.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

Renton business owner supports local farmers, brewers during pandemic

The Brewmaster’s Foundation weekly Community Supported Agriculture box includes fresh produce from local farms and beers from Washington breweries.

Inslee, nonprofits launch fund for state’s food banks as supply levels drop

Demand expected to double this week to 1.6 million people in need

First WA state prisoner tests positive for COVID-19

The man is the first person in Washington to contract the disease while in a state prison.

Sewing up solutions: South King firefighter designs prototype for protective gown shortage

Despite the department’s success with a one-man team, South King Fire is looking for the community’s help to sew gowns for first responders.

Students will not return to classrooms this school year

Monday’s decision applies to all schools — public, private and charter.

Drive-thru COVID-19 virus testing last week in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett. A study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, conducted at Everett Clinic locations, found that a less-intrusive form of the coronavirus test would require fewer precautions by health care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New self-swab COVID-19 test is just as accurate, study finds

The study, under peer review, was led by an Everett Clinic doctor. It could speed up testing nationwide.

Life Care Center (LCC) of Kirkland is facing more than $600,000 in fines for its response to the COVID-19 outbreak in its facility. Samantha Pak/Sound Publishing
Life Care in Kirkland facing more than $600K in fines for COVID-19 response

The facility has until Sept. 16 to pay or address areas of concern or it will be terminated.

Most Read