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

t
Two people shot, injured at Renton encampment

Investigators arrest a 31-year-old man in Feb. 27 shooting

t
KC prosecutor’s office supports catalytic converter theft legislation

ESHB 2153 would make catalytic converters traceable and harder to sell illegally.

t
Auburn Police arrest man in Valentine’s Day shooting

Boyfriend of woman shot faces murder charge

King County elections drop box. (File photo)
Auburn School District levy is passing by thin margin

These were the results as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21.

File photo
Man, 68, fatally shot in Federal Way on Feb. 13

Killed in 32900 block of Hoyt Road

t
White supremacists accused of double homicide, dumping bodies in Maple Valley

A horse and dog are also dead in this murder investigation.

Washington Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program advocacy group at the State Capitol for HB 1916. (Photo Courtesy of Kindering)
‘When services decline, it’s the kids who pay the price’

Legislative bill would recover funding for the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program - and could save the state millions.

Maddy Lindsay won the Miss Auburn crown last weekend. Photo courtesy City of Auburn.
Miss Auburn and Miss Auburn’s Teen 2024 winners crowned

There were 10 Miss Auburn and 11 Miss Auburn Teen contestants

File photo
Renton’s minimum wage measure is passing in early vote counts

Initiative Measure No. 23-02 would make Renton’s minimum wage one of the highest in the nation.

File photo
Police arrest Federal Way teens in multi-city crime spree

Girls ages 13, 14 and 16 allegedly involved in vehicle theft, malicious mischief and vehicle prowl

King County Crime Dive podcast.
The end of traditional youth jail | KC Crime Dive podcast

In this episode, we look at how King County is moving toward ending traditional youth detention in favor of a new facility for minors or even group homes.

Photo by Keelin Everly-Lang/Sound Publishing
Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center.
King County moves toward ending traditional youth detention

Committee members expressed concerns regarding youth leaving the center and causing additional harm. The committee also expressed concerns about youth being at risk of retaliation from community members.