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

The Stevenson Motel in Federal Way, as seen the afternoon of Jan. 11. Alex Bruell / The Mirror
Federal Way motel could become temporary emergency shelter

Public comments are due to the City of Federal Way by Feb. 6.

Organizers and supporters of Raise the Wage Renton join together at the Renton Public Library after announcing their push to raise the minimum wage. Cameron Sheppard/Renton Reporter
Renton community members want to raise the minimum wage

Raise the Wage Renton aims to raise pay to $19 an hour, similar to neighboring Tukwila.

t
Man, 45, fatally shot in Federal Way near Mirror Lake

A 22-year-old man, the suspected shooter, has been detained, police say.

t
Auburn man faces charge of attempted kidnapping of barista

King County prosecutors charge man in Jan. 16 incident at drive-thru window

t
Police searching for suspects who robbed Federal Way nail salon at gunpoint

The two suspects reportedly stole several items from employees and customers on Jan. 18

Pickleball Rising license plate, designed by Laramie Studio in Seattle (Seattle Metro Pickleball Association)
Washington pickleball fans may may soon have special license plate

Enthusiasts are teaming up on a bill for a special plate. Proceeds would build and maintain courts.

t
Alleged would-be Auburn barista snatcher makes first court appearance

38-year-old man held on $500,000 bail; could face attempted kidnapping charge with sexual motivation

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus.
Residents express concern about Auburn mayor’s paid time off

Continues to accrue high number of unlimited sick leave and vacation time toward eventual payout

A suspected drunk driver allegedly collided with several vehicles Saturday afternoon on U.S. 2 near Chain Lake Road in Monroe. (Monroe Police Department)
Effort begins to lower the legal limit for driving drunk

Washington could join Utah with toughest standard in the nation. Change concerns wine and hospitality industries.

Auburn Police Department vehicle. Courtesy photo
Police arrest Auburn man they suspect tried to kidnap a barista

Reportedly attempted to pull barista through drive-up window Jan. 16

Police lights (File photo)
Man, 36, dies after hit-and-run in Federal Way

Officers responded to the area near Harbor Freight Tools just before 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Police helicopter camera shot of one of the fleeing vehicles. (Screenshot from Bellevue Police Department website)
Four minors arrested after armed carjacking at Renton Landing

Suspects, three ages 14 and one 12, fled north and were arrested in Bellevue with two vehicles.