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Inside Olympia – Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, Office of Equity’s Megan Matthews

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On this week’s episode, host Austin Jenkins sits down with Washington Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck for an assessment of the recently completed 2024 legislative session, and his work to promote civility in political discourse. Plus, an interview with the director of the Washington State Office of Equity, Megan Matthews.

Last year, Lieutenant Governor Heck called the 2023 legislative session the “year of housing.” In comparison, Heck calls this year’s session’s progress on housing “modest.” He is concerned that we are falling farther behind, rather than progressing, on the need for more housing for Washingtonians of all income levels. Both government and the private sector need to step up, according to the lieutenant governor.

Heck is very concerned about political polarization and the vitriol in much of our political conversation, and shares stats to back up his concern. He spent much of 2023 traveling the state, listening to Washingtonians and discussing how to promote civil political discourse. One recommendation that came out of that effort was creation of a joint legislative committee to further discuss the issue – a recommendation that became a bill that passed into law this session at the Capitol.

Last August, Megan Matthews was named by Governor Jay Inslee as the second director of the State Office of Equity. Since taking the helm of this relatively new state agency, Matthews has been focused on hiring, and now has the Office of Equity near its full capacity of three dozen employees.

She says one major focus for the office is communication: increasing awareness of the office among the general public, as well as the state agencies with which the office works to bring about improvements in equity. As one example, she is convening a group of community members and state agency reps that will work on overcoming equity barriers in state contracting – she says marginalized groups such as women and minority owned businesses get a disproportionately low share of state contracts.