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P.R. Native Sworn In As President Of The National Hispanic Caucus Of State Legislators
Félix Ortiz, an 11-year New York state assemblyman, was sworn in during a special ceremony held at San Juan Capitol
By MARIELLA PEREZ SERRANO of Caribbean Business
July 7, 2005
New York state Assemblyman Félix W. Ortiz, a Puerto Rico native, was recently sworn in as president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) in the San Juan Capitol June 24. Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock performed the swearing-in.
As NHCSL president, Ortiz succeeds Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. At the swearing-in ceremony, state Sen. Van de Putte passed the ceremonial torch to the New York assemblyman before several high-ranking political officials, dignitaries, and state legislators from all over the U.S.
Ortiz, born and raised in the islands southern municipality of Salinas, highlighted NHCSLs current programs and initiatives, such as Healthy States and Closing the Achievement Gaps, which he said are helping Hispanic state legislators design policies that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics. He also said his priorities as NHCSL president will be a stronger focus on increasing opportunities that will empower the Hispanic community through economic development, access to better healthcare and affordable housing, as well as eliminating the education disparities among Hispanic youth.
"We work with Congress and the White House to influence and direct these important national priorities," Ortiz said of the Washington, D.C.-based caucus. "Our efforts focus on advancements in education, healthcare, housing, economic development, criminal justice, and employment and job training for the Hispanic community." Puerto Rico is part of the NHCSL, and both presidents of the Senate and House of Representatives are members.
Ortiz, a Democrat, was elected New York state assemblyman for Brooklyns District 51 in 1994. In November 2002, Ortiz won 81% of the votes in his bid for re-election, against Republican candidate Washington George Artus.
This has been the New York politicians year in the spotlight. On May 27, the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas (COPA by its Spanish acronym) elected him vice president of its U.S.A. Region. As vice president of COPA, he serves on the Executive Committee. COPA, created in 1997, brings together the 35 congresses and parliamentary assemblies of the Americas. It is the only Pan-American body to include the U.S. and Cuba, as well as interparliamentary organizations and legislative assemblies from federal states. Its mission is to foster the participation of parliamentarians in integrating countries in the Americas.
About his involvement in politics, Ortiz said he became concerned about the young people in his community at a very early age, while living on the island. "When I was 10 years old, I circulated a petition requesting then-Gov. Luis A. Ferrés support for our Little League baseball team, for the necessary equipment. Not only did he meet with me in person, he also donated baseballs, gloves, bats, and everything we needed [for the game]. From that moment on, I knew I had to be a public servant," he said.
In 1980, Ortiz was the first in his family to move to the States, settling in New York City. Soon after, he became actively involved in community and political issues, serving in various capacities in state politics. Brooklyns adopted son is most recognized as a defender of Hispanic immigrants, workers, families, and children, especially regarding public safety, healthcare, and educational equity.
Ortiz began his career in the New York State Assembly by calling attention to the unjust treatment of sweatshop workers by addressing the numerous labor violations in the industry. Among his most significant achievements were the opening of the Computer Literacy Center and a Youth Employment Program. He also is chairman of the New York Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm & Nutrition.
The assemblymans most recognized legislation in New York state includes passage of the nations first law banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving a motor vehicle. Another is a law providing farmers with economic relief by requiring schools to purchase locally grown produce, as well as New Yorks first Statewide Child Obesity Education Program law, which ensures nutrition-education programs are a part of every classroom.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.