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

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

AG Ferguson wants to require law enforcement statewide to report all uses of deadly force

Report to Legislature recommends centralized, easily accessible statewide website on incidents

Stay local with summer travel plans | State Department of Health

Officials want people to limit cross-state travel to help slow spread of COVID-19

Public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs and similar schools and programs may resume general instruction, including in-person classes and lectures, starting Aug. 1. Pictured: The University of Washington-Bothell campus. File photo
Universities and colleges may reopen in fall, governor says

His order requires masks and physical distancing, among other measures, to help prevent infections.

A new measure from the King County Council could increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas of King County. File photo
County measure would increase flexibility for businesses in rural areas

Staff report Legislation the King County Council passed June 23 could lead… Continue reading

Changes coming to Port of Seattle Police Department

Hiring practices, commitment to diversity, use of force

File photo/pexels.com
Renton man pleads guilty to one of state’s largest workers’ comp scams

The delivery driver was still working under his own name while receiving L&I pension, and owes the state almost $340,000.

King County Board of Health declares racism a crisis

Racism was declared a public health crisis by King County’s Board of… Continue reading

Future of new sex ed law may rest in the hands of voters

Opponents are confident they have enough signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

The YMCA of Greater Seattle opened its King County branches to provide child care centers dedicated to serving the families of essential workers. Courtesy photo
Child care shortage could follow COVID-19 pandemic

Around 25 percent of child care facilities have closed across the state.

Congresswoman Kim Schrier, D-WA (8th District) seeks nominees for a new heroes program to honor people who have made a difference during the COVID-19 outbreak. FILE PHOTO
Schrier launches WA-08 Heroes program

Seeks nominees from 8th Congressional District