NEWSLETTER: Caucusing, Vaccines, Update on Bills & Police Tactics

Friends and neighbors,

Today is the 56th day of this 105-day legislative session. It’s hard to believe we’re already half-way through. We’ve been debating and voting on bills on the House Floor ’round the clock for a week and we have two more days to pass bills before we start hearing Senate bills on Wednesday.

Sometimes I get asked, “What’s it like, what do you do all day?”

Yesterday, we began the day at 10 a.m. caucused for a few hours, then went to the Floor and passed some bills, then back to caucusing. At around 6 p.m., we started debating HB 1236, aimed at protecting tenants from discrimination. By 8:30 we’d gone through nine of 22 amendments and decided to adjourn for the night.

This Sunday morning we were all back on the Floor at 9 and, right now, if you tune into TVW, you’ll see we’re still considering amendments for this bill, but we only have four left, so we’ve made some good progress in two hours!

Why does this take so long?

It would be unrealistic to expect every member of the House to know the ins-and-outs of every single bill, since we all serve in different committees.

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That’s why we make sure to brief every piece of legislation thoroughly (including amendments) before it goes up for a vote. That process is what we refer to as “caucusing” or “going into caucus,” and it represents a big part of my job as caucus chair.

I bring the meetings to order with the gavel—yes, even remotely, over the computer—make sure everyone is present and paying attention, enforce the rules of decorum and, most importantly, make sure we don’t move on to briefing a new bill until everyone has had a chance to ask questions and the information on what each bill does is absolutely clear to all members.

So, as you may imagine, caucusing takes a lot of time, is an intense process, and is part of the reason we work such long hours, but it is absolutely necessary.

The latest on vaccines

Washington’s teachers and childcare providers are now being prioritized for vaccinations! Our state’s educators are essential and ensuring they have access to the vaccine puts our schools one step closer to being able to fully re-open.

The Department of Health is working to get clarity from the federal administration on vaccine supply to support this directive, and we hope to know more about how educators can best access the vaccine very soon. You can read the governor’s statement on the new directive here.

In addition, the governor recently announced a new projected vaccine eligibility timeline. In this new timeline, critical workers in some congregate settings (including agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, and corrections) as well as first responders and other staff in congregate living settings will be able to receive the vaccine on March 22.

Vacc timeline

This graphic offers a snapshot of the timeline, but for more details here is the news release from the Department of Health outlining the plan.

In my previous newsletter, I told you where my six bills were at that moment. Things have moved pretty quickly since then, especially this past week. HB 1154 remains in Capital Budget waiting for a vote. As to the other five bills, well, it’s time for another…

… update on my bills

HB 1090 Banning private prisons in Washington

Passed on February 23rd on a 76-21 vote. Hearing in Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation on March 11 at 1:30 PM

It will always be wrong to profit off prisoners, and there is no justice in making money from the misfortune of others. ⁠

The Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma is the only private prison in WA, and it has had numerous accounts of abuse and poor conditions. We must stand up for the rights of people detained here. Families belong together, and every person in our state—no matter their immigration status—deserves safety, adequate nutrition, and access to health care. ⁠

To learn more, click here for my press release (also available in Spanish) and watch my Floor remarks below.

Ortiz-Self from the Floor

HB 1363 Secondary trauma in the K-12 workforce

Passed on February 25th on a 54-40 vote. Hearing in Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education on March 12 at 8 a.m.

Often our teachers are the first responders to issues impacting their students. This work can take a toll on the teacher and this bill will help provide them with access to supports aimed at protecting their mental health.  Here’s what I said on the Floor.

HB 1194 Strengthening family bonds

Passed on February 25th on a unanimous vote.  Hearing in Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation on March 12 at 10:30 a.m. 

This bill will improve parent-child visitation during child dependency proceedings to support both the child and the parents. These visits are critical in maintaining the family bonds as the issues that lead to the dependency proceedings are solved. Read my press release here and watch my Floor speech here.

HB 1113 Promoting consistent school attendance

Passed on March 3rd on a 77-20 vote. Referred to Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education.

This bill provides additional supports for schools to engage students, which promotes school attendance. Daily school attendance is critical in the education of our students and this bill will allow schools the flexibility to better support students struggling to attend classes. Watch my Floor remarks here.

HB 1227 Keeping Families Together Act

Passed on March 4th on an 89-9 vote. Hearing in Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation on March 12 at 10:30 a.m.

Our child welfare system’s primary goal is the safety of the child; a secondary goal is family reunification. These reforms will help support these goals to make sure we are doing everything possible to keep a family safely together. Video of my Floor remarks is here.

Protecting communities with safer police tactics

“Justice is just us coming together to make public policy for infinite impact.” -Rep. Jesse Johnson (Click on the image to watch his full speech, which is very worthwhile). ⁠⁠

Johnson 1054

Last weekend, we passed legislation establishing baselines for police tactics that truly uphold just, equitable public safety. ⁠⁠

⁠⁠HB 1054 is a call to end unnecessary police violence, and it represents our commitment to stand for justice and the preservation of human life. This bill helps us begin the daunting process of rebuilding trust between communities of color and law enforcement. ⁠⁠

⁠⁠Too many families have suffered unimaginable loss. We’re grateful for their willingness to share their stories, and we’re grateful for the organizers, advocates, and law enforcement who helped craft this legislation. Together, we’re shaping a Washington that is safer for Black and brown communities. ⁠⁠

Utilities moratorium extended to July 31st


The state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) announced it is extending protections for electric and natural gas customers who are unable to pay their bills due to the pandemic.

An emergency order by Governor Inslee to keep utilities connected was set to expire on April 30, but with the pandemic still going, many working families are struggling to make ends meet. With this extension, they will not have to worry about being left without power and heat.

For more information please read the notice at the UTC website.

Thank you for reading my newsletter.  If you need more information on any of the issues discussed here, or on any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.


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