New Speaker, College Counselors, Investing in Education and more!

We have a New Speaker!

Earlier this week, the House Democratic Caucus selected my friend and colleague, Rep. Laurie Jinkins as the new speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives. Read the press release here.

ortiz-self and jinkins

As you know, Rep. Frank Chopp served as speaker for two decades. I am grateful for the times we worked together, especially since I became Caucus Vice Chair, and the many things I learned from him as he led the state with values that put the people of Washington state first.

I look forward to working with Speaker-designate Jinkins to continue building relationships across all levels of government to better serve our communities throughout the state.

College Counselors

Another piece of news I’d like to share is that I was recently appointed to serve on the Joint Task Force on Community and Technical College Counselors.

college students

The task force, created in House Bill 1355, which I sponsored, will examine minimum standards required for counselors, staffing ratios, and best practices for counseling services in the community and technical college system. Addressing the mental health needs of our college students is crucial as they are at a pivotal point in their lives.  I have met with students who have shared their stories of struggling through a crisis and having to wait three to four weeks to talk to someone. Some shared that their college didn’t even have a mental health counselor on staff. This must change.

Focus on Learning

Every Washingtonian should have the opportunity for success. The experiences of children during their early years will shape their life. This session we passed bills and made investments to help build a strong foundation for our kids to grow and thrive.

Investments in Early Learning:

  • ECEAP: $19.6m to add 1,171 full day and extended day slots, and $15.2m for an across the board 6% rate increase effective July 1, 2019.
  • Child care: $52.8m to fully fund family home provider collective bargaining agreement and $24.6m to increase child care center rates.
  • Early Achievers: $6.1m to increase coaching support, scholarships, and needs-based grants in the Early Achievers program.
  • ECLIPSE: $3.2m to continue the program, which provides early intervention and treatment for children exposed to environmental, familial, and biological risk factors that affect development.
  • Long-Term home visiting: State and federal funding for an additional 1,260 long-term home visiting slots over the biennium.
  • Early learning facilities: $28.5m for grants and loans to match private and other public funding to purchase, construct, or modernize facilities to add capacity for early learning facilities.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL):

two boys

As a school counselor I can attest to the differing social and emotional skills that our students bring into the classroom. Addressing this issue is crucial for them to achieve their fullest potential.

Senate Bill 5082 creates a committee to promote and expand SEL, which will help students build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and life. This bill was the result of a recommendation by the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, of which I am a member.

Preparing Washington students for Washington jobs

I have heard from so many parents about their concern that their children won’t be able to get a college education due to their finances. We can talk about our desire to have our children achieve their fullest potential, but we need to remove barriers in order to make those dreams a reality.


This session we took a big step toward that goal by passing a major new investment in our state’s higher education system. It will make public college tuition-free for families earning 55 percent of the state’s Median Family Income or less (about $50,000/year). For families earning up to 100 percent of the Median Family Income (about $92,000/year), partial tuition scholarships will be available.

The Workforce Education Investment Act also funds:

  • More slots in high-demand fields like computer science, engineering and nursing
  • Expansion of the Guided Pathways program at our community and technical colleges, to help students graduate on time and get into the workforce
  • Counselors and advisers at regional universities
  • The Career Connect Washington apprenticeship program
  • Working Connections Childcare for working parents

These investments will help ensure Washington students find a path to good-paying jobs, and Washington businesses have access to the educated workforce they need.

In this story, the New York Times gives our state kudos on making college more affordable.

Nation’s first public health care option, long-term care trust


Families in Washington deserve health care they can afford and can count on, but changes at the federal level are threatening their ability to access undisrupted and reliable care. I believe health care should not be a luxury, so this session we worked on finding solutions at the state level and made Washington the first state to establish a public health care option. Cascade Care is an understandable, usable and affordable plan that is available to any Washingtonian who is not covered by an employer-sponsored health plan. Those who are covered by an employer’s health plan, Medicare or Apple Care will not be affected.

Learn more about Cascade Care on NPR.

Washington is also the first state to tackle our impending long-term care crisis with the Long-Term Care Trust Act. The legislation sets up an insurance benefit to help cover the costs of vital health care services, and with more people than ever moving into the 65+ age bracket, we are getting ahead today by planning for tomorrow.

Read more about the Long-Term Care Trust Act in the News Tribune.

I thank you for reading my newsletter and want to remind you that I am your representative year ‘round. I set aside time during the legislative interim to attend conferences and to educate myself about the issues in our district and in Washington. I try to learn from experts, as well as from other states, always looking for solutions to improve the lives of every child and adult in our great state. As I do this interim work and prepare for the upcoming session, I also appreciate and value your input and feedback, so don’t hesitate to contact my office if you want to meet and discuss your ideas or concerns.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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