Chair, Cities Committee
At a young age, Felix Ortiz was very concerned about the youth in his community. To address his concerns, he circulated a petition among parents and children, requesting that the Governor of Puerto Rico support the formation of a youth baseball league. His efforts were successful. Ortiz was invited to meet with Governor Luis A. Ferr who authorized the donation of sporting equipment and helped to establish the town of La Playa de Salinas’ first Little League program. In 1980, Assemblyman Ortiz was the first member of his family to move from Puerto Rico to the United States. Although not yet fluent in English, he graduated from Boricua College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration three years later. He received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from New York University (NYU) in 1986. Upon completing his schooling, Mr. Ortiz joined the United States Army and served our country from 1986 until he was honorably discharged in 1988. He was elected to the office of New York State Assembly in November 1994, defeating a one-term incumbent. Once elected, Assemblyman Ortiz went to work for people of all ages who were in need. During his first week in office he held a press conference to call attention to the unjust treatment of sweatshop workers and set out to address the numerous labor violations in the industry. As a result of his efforts on behalf of immigrants and other workers, the Speaker of the Assembly selected Assemblyman Ortiz to chair the Subcommittee on Sweatshops. As Chair, he continued the fight to hold the industry accountable for its horrendous labor violations and force it to comply with state and federal labor laws and worker safety conditions. With the help of the State Attorney General, Assemblyman Ortiz was able to recover back wages previously denied by the factory owners. To this day, Assemblyman Ortiz continues to monitor labor and wage practices and the safety conditions in the industry. In 2000, Assemblyman Ortiz achieved passage of the nation’s first law to ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving a motor vehicle. This law has saved the lives of hundreds of New Yorkers and has since been replicated by other states. Assemblyman Ortiz continues to respond to requests for help from families of accident victims and legislators in states that have not yet passed this law. In 2001, Assemblyman Ortiz was appointed to serve as Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food Farm and Nutrition Policy. He worked to provide farmers with economic relief in 2002 by passing a law requiring schools to purchase locally grown produce. In October 2003, Assemblyman Ortiz was presented with the Anne B. Gennings Award from the New York State School Food Services Association in recognition of his efforts on behalf of local farmers and school children from farming communities across the state. That same year, Assemblyman Ortiz passed New York’s first Statewide Child Obesity Education Program law which ensures that nutritionally based education programs be a part of every classroom. In 2004, he passed a law to create five eating disorder centers across the state to help those who suffer from illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia. He continues the fight to pass laws mandating that fast food restaurants post the nutritional value of foods they serve to help consumers make more informed choices. Assemblyman Ortiz serves as President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, Vice-President of COPA USA, Chair of the Labor and Workforce Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), and Executive Committee Board Member of the Council of State Governments (CSG), Ex-Officio Board Member of the NALEO. Assemblyman Ortiz is a member of the Assembly Standing Committees of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Corrections; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Energy; Labor; and Banks and the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, and the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus He is a 2002 Toll Fellow Graduate and in 2003 he was selected to be part of the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship Program. Assemblyman Ortiz continues to lead a distinguished career in public service. He is nationally and internationally recognized as an elected official who is not afraid to take on unpopular issues and forge solutions on behalf of the people he represents. His cutting edge legislation has made New York a leader in public health and safety issues and many of his bills are used as role models by other state legislative bodies. Ortiz is a recognized fighter for children, families and immigrants. After serving in the Assembly for two years, the New York Times said: "…Mr. Ortiz is well regarded in the Assembly for both his hard work and talent at coalition building. In a city where Latino neighborhoods are often shortchanges by the quality of their representatives, Mr. Ortiz could grow into an important leader…" (The New York Times, September 5, 1996).