By Evan Smith
Democratic State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts says that she will leave the legislature at the end of the year because “10 years is enough.”
She said Tuesday, Feb. 24 that she leaves with work left to do on extending state services for young adults who are making the transition from foster care to independent living. In past years she sponsored three bills that the legislature passed to help former foster children get state services after they leave foster homes, including one that extended state services to former foster children. She said that she wants to see at least one more foster-care-reform bill pass this year, leaving a fifth proposal for future legislatures.
Roberts represents the 21st Legislative District, which now includes most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett. The 2011 redistricting removed the City of Lynnwood from the district and added unincorporated areas northeast of Lynnwood and new areas of south Everett.
She noted Tuesday that when she and her fellow 21st District legislators held town-hall meetings Feb. 21, they met large crowds in Edmonds and Mukilteo but a much smaller group at Martha Lake Elementary School in a new part of the district.
In 2013, she gave up the vice chairmanship of the House committee on early learning and social services to become vice chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, while continuing as a member of the committee on early learning and social services in addition to serving on the Judiciary Committee and the powerful Rules Committee.
She said that on the Public Safety Committee she has worked to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated and to find alternatives that both help people convicted of minor crimes and save the state money.
In a press release Thursday, she said this:
“It’s not just that we’re running out of room, it’s also about realizing that there are other options to putting people behind bars that can bring about better outcomes.
“Giving flexibility to law enforcement and the courts to direct someone to appropriate services may be the difference between getting juveniles on the right path, or having them recycle through the criminal justice system.”
State Rep. Ruth Kagi, chairwoman of the committee on early learning and social services, called Roberts “a strong and articulate voice for children in the legislature — particularly those children whose voices are seldom heard.”
Kagi noted that Roberts has sponsored and passed many bills addressing the needs of foster children aging out of care, extending health insurance to youth until age 21 and, over the last few years, extending foster care supports for youth until they reach 21.
“She also has been a persistent advocate for youth with chemical dependency and mental health issues, assuring that law enforcement has the option of taking youth to treatment or an appropriate alternative to jail and advocating for less harsh sentencing of youth,” Kagi said. “Mary Helen will be badly missed. I wish her every success as she begins a new journey.”
Roberts said she plans to spend more time with her community and family.
Kagi is a Democrat representing the neighboring 32nd Legislative District that now includes Lynnwood and part of Mountlake Terrace in addition to Woodway, south Edmonds, unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County near Edmonds and Woodway, Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle.
Two Democrats have declared as candidates to replace Roberts in the coming election.