By Evan Smith, Herald Writer
Democratic State Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self says that highlights of her first session in the legislature included increased support for children’s mental health, people with disabilities and transportation, along with passing the “Dream Act and the student-success bill.
She said last week that putting money into children’s mental health was a highlight for her as a school counselor.
“As a mental health therapist and someone who strongly believes in a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of children, seeing dollars targeted towards wrap around services for children was definitely rewarding and a step in the right direction,” Ortiz-Self said.
“Being able to provide for 5,000 more people with disabilities is also a step in the right direction although when you have a list of 14,000 you are keenly aware that there is still more work to be done,” she added.
Ortiz-Self also said that she was glad when the House passed the supplemental transportation budget.
“We desperately needed to fulfill the commitments we started,” she said.
Ortiz-Self said that the passage of the dream act was one of the legislature’s most important accomplishments. The act allows high school graduates who lack documented status to compete for college scholarships.
“I have been telling students for years to hang in there. I tried to keep their dreams a live. It was very emotional when it passed because I couldn’t help but see the faces of so many of my students and remember their passionate pleas for opportunity. I had fought for years on the outside advocating for this bill and to be there and take the final vote meant so much to me.”
She said that a personal highlight was the first bill she had introduced to pass the legislature “the” Student Success Bill.” Ortiz-Self noted that it passed on the last day a bill could be passed out of the senate.
“This bill will give us the data to strategically target areas that need interventions the most,” she said. “I want to assure that as we fully fund education we make sure that we address the needs of students who are facing multiple barriers to succeeding academically. I want to make sure we take a comprehensive approach.”
She said that she loved the compassion her caucus demonstrated when advocating for second chances in dealing with children in foster care and in the juvenile justice system.
“Giving up on our children is never an option,” she said.
Ortiz-Self also said that she was glad she had built collaborative partnerships with many members before she joined the legislature by appointment in January.
She said that she was fortunate to join committees with such strong leaders such as Joe Fitzgibbons of the environment committee, Ruth Kagi of the committee on early learning and human services, and Judi Clibborn of the transportation committee.
Ortiz-Self said that work left to be done includes passing the cost-of-living pay increases for teachers, lowering class sizes so that students get the attention they deserve, also passing the capitol budget that would not only improve Washington’s infrastructure but also bring in living wage jobs.
She said that the disappointments reminded her of the importance of patience, tenacity and resiliency.
Ortiz-Self won appointment to the State House of Representatives in January to replace Marko Liias, who was appointed to the State Senate.
Both represent the 21st Legislative District including most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood and northeast of Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.