Ultrino Earns Perfect Score From Environmental Advocates

Organization recognizes first-term Malden Rep. as “environmental champion”

BOSTON – Environmental advocates have awarded Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) a perfect score for his voting record and advocacy in support of clean energy and environmental initiatives. Only 26 members of the 160-member House of Representatives were awarded a perfect score, which accounts for not only roll call votes on legislation but also leadership on environmental issues outside of the House chamber.

“Protecting the environment is a major priority for Massachusetts. It’s about clean energy, rising sea levels, the green economy, improving public health, and preserving our community for our children and grandchildren,” said Representative Ultrino. “I’m proud to advocate for action against climate change, investments in our workforce, and the preservation of open space. And I’m proud to represent Malden, which is a leader in urban environmental efforts.”

The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund (ELM Action Fund) recognized Representative Ultrino for achieving a perfect score of 100 in the organization’s 2015-2016 Legislative Scorecard on the environment. It rates true legislative action, not merely votes. And it challenges AIM’s recent scorecard criticizing legislators on energy policy as lost in the 19th century and failing to represent the long term interests of their own members.

“When it came to votes this session, Representative Steve Ultrino supported our pro-environment agenda, but didn’t stop there. Steve demonstrated leadership on conservation. The ELM Action Fund is pleased to recognize him as an environmental champion,” said ELM Action Fund President George Bachrach. “We look forward to continued work together to protect our environment, improve public health, enhance quality of life, and grow our green economy.”

The scorecard takes into account increased funding for state parks, the Department of Environmental Protection, An Act to Promote Energy Diversity, and more, including the addition of a state climatologist to prepare the state for the effects of climate change.

Beyond votes, the ELM Action Fund awarded additional points to lawmakers who led by sponsoring important legislation or authored “Dear Colleague” letters, and deducted points from legislators who filed anti-environment legislation.  The ELM Action Fund also challenges lawmakers for the practice of “voice votes” on controversial issues which are not recorded roll call votes. This practice prevents voters from truly gauging which representatives and senators are truly on their side.

“Legislative scorecards are common but this is unique, measuring leadership, not just votes,” said Bachrach. “This is our best effort to give voters a sense of who is really on their side in the critically important work that takes place out of public view.”

To view the scorecard, visit bit.ly/scores15

TRIANGLE AWARDS REPRESENTATIVE ULTRINO WITH SPIRIT AWARD AT ANNUAL CEREMONY

MALDEN – Earlier this month Malden-based Triangle, a non-profit serving individuals with disabilities, recognized Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) for his community partnership with Triangle and his support for the disability community. Citing his strong advocacy for funding and the integration of community services for people with disabilities, Triangle presented Representative Ultrino with an award at its annual Spirit Awards cookout celebration. Other Spirit Award recipients include inspirational members of Triangle staff, program participants, and community partners.

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Representative Ultrino was given the award alongside Triangle clients, employees, and community leaders like the Malden YMCA, Chicken & Rice Guys, and Clarks Americas.

“Representative Ultrino is a long-time supporter of Triangle and a recognized public leader in the effort to make this a more inclusive world,” said Triangle’s Chief Executive Officer Coleman Nee. “We are fortunate to have his support and congratulate him on this award.”

Triangle provides career and life services to over 3,700 adults and transition-age youth with disabilities in the Greater New England area. Triangle teaches safety and self-advocacy and encourages community involvement, but its chief focus is employment. Staff work day in and day out to curb the 60% unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Massachusetts by providing individualized services to meet the needs of every participant. In the last fiscal year, Triangle exceeded its organizational record and placed individuals with disabilities in 234 competitive employment positions.

“Triangle is grateful to have the support of valuable partners like Representative Ultrino that allow us to provide quality services that help the world realize that we are all people with ability,” Triangle said in a statement.

For more information about the programs and services Triangle provides, please visit PeopleWithAbility.org.

FLURRY OF BILLS, VETO OVERRIDES PASS AS LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS

REP. ULTRINO JOINS COLLEAGUES TO RESTORE FUNDING FOR VITAL PROGRAMS

BOSTON – As the 2015–2016 legislative session came to an end on Sunday, July 31, Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing critical legislation that invests in the state’s economy, allows record levels of clean energy development, expands access to health care, improves municipal governance, and takes a first-in-the-nation stance to ensure pay equity. The Legislature also responded to Governor Baker’s vetoing of important state programs by restoring funding to dozens of line items, including public housing, education, public health, the arts, and assistance for the needy.

“The last few days have been an incredible capstone to my first term as Malden’s state representative,” said Representative Ultrino. “I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, so excited to continue this work next session, and so honored to be representing my community. We’ve just taken some historic steps forward, and I’m eager to see Massachusetts continue to grow.

The Legislature met late into the night on the last Saturday and Sunday of July in order to approve compromises on bills and wrap up overrides of the governor’s vetoes. The House and Senate approved compromise language on bills regarding economic development, clean energy, municipal modernization, transportation networking companies like Uber and Lyft, and on pay equity. They also agreed on language that expands health care coverage to cover treatments for Lyme disease and HIV-associated lipodystrophy. If the lipodystrophy bill is signed by the governor, Massachusetts will become the first state in the country to cover the ailment caused by certain medicines used to treat HIV.

“Massachusetts has always been a leader in driving policy changes across the country, from the U.S. Constitution to education, equal marriage and health care reform,” said Representative Ultrino. “This week, we can add first-of-its-kind pay equity legislation and coverage of a tragic HIV-related disease to the list of progressive policies that began in Massachusetts.”                                                                  

The House led the charge in overriding a number of vetoes, restoring funding to public schools, public health, public housing, and other programs. The Massachusetts Cultural Council also saw funding restored after advocates across the state, including dozens in Malden, lobbied legislators to support the arts.

Other overrides taken up and passed by the legislature restored major funding for the State University Internship Incentive Program, early learning, and state aid for public libraries. Massachusetts continues to establish itself as a top model for education for the rest of the country and the Legislature continues to dedicate itself to providing the necessary means to meet the state’s objective. School districts like Malden will see a funding boost after the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of the special education circuit breaker line item.

ULTRINO, HOUSE PASSES LANDMARK BILL TO DISMANTLE THE GENDER WAGE GAP

(BOSTON) – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing legislation to ensure that both women and men receive equitable compensation for comparable work.

“Pay equity gets at the heart of who we are as Americans,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-

Winthrop). “I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the legislators who have raised their voices and tenaciously pursued this issue for decades. Your work will shape a better and more just future for women in the Commonwealth.”

“In adopting these new protections and policies, our state is taking a big step forward in eliminating the gender wage gap and towards helping women across the state earn their fair share,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation, and am proud that we were able to make this historic landmark that will serve as a model for states around the country.”

Massachusetts will be the first state in the nation to adopt a provision that would benefit all workers by preventing employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. However, prospective employees would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries.

The bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor including seniority (provided that paternal, family, and medical leave don’t reduce seniority). This is a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; education, training or experience, allowing women to have the same pay as men for the same standard of work.

In drafting this bill, the House of Representatives focused on building consensus to ensure that the legislation would be workable, effective and sustainable. The key effort to defining “comparable work” helps determine how much each individual gets paid regardless of their gender. The bill incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period employers must complete a self-evaluation of its pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities.

It also:

-       Prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law.

-       Prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

The legislation will take effect of July 1, 2018.

Tiffany Farris Ward of Malden Honored as Unsung Heroine at State House

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Tiffany Farris Ward of Malden was honored as an Unsung Heroine at the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 13th Annual Unsung Heroines Celebration on Wednesday June 22, 2016 at the State House. Malden State Representative Steven Ultrino (D) – Malden nominated Ms. Ward for this recognition for her dedication and contribution to the Malden YWCA for over 15 years. 

Ms. Ward works at the Malden YWCA organizing and facilitating after school programs and housing placement programs for homeless and/or low income women of Malden. Her dedication to helping women extends beyond her role at the YWCA as a volunteer for the Annual Encore Breast Cancer event, said Representative Ultrino.

Each year, state legislators nominate women who make remarkable contributions to their organizations and communities but who are often unrecognized for their efforts. Unsung Heroines are actively engaged in making a difference for women in their communities by using their time and skills to mentor, volunteer, and advocate on behalf of women.

“Tiffany’s work to better the lives of those around her has left a lasting impression on the entire Malden community,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “She deserves recognition for the time and dedication she has selflessly put forth to better the lives of others.”

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.

ULTRINO JOINS HOUSE TO PASS ENERGY LEGISLATION THAT HIGHLIGHTS OFFSHORE WIND AND HYDROPOWER

Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass energy legislation that seeks to protect the Commonwealth’s ratepayers and support clean energy. The bill requires distribution companies to conduct solicitations for 1,200 megawatts (MWs) of offshore wind and supports a total of 2,400 MWs of clean energy, the largest amount the Legislature has included in any single bill.

To spur the timely infusion of reliable clean energy projects in Massachusetts, the bill will also require distribution companies to conduct solicitations for up to 9,450,000 MWhs of energy from either hydropower, or hydropower and Class I renewable resources.

“This legislation represents a step forward on changing the way we look at renewable energy,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “Clean energy has an immense impact on working class families, who are struggling from high energy bills. We need to continue working towards the goal of promoting clean and affordable energy.”

“I’m proud that the House has taken a bold and forward-thinking step in addressing the complex and critical energy challenges facing Massachusetts,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Through this bill, the House tackles these challenges head on, adopting a viable, real-world strategy that will stabilize costs, protect ratepayers and promote clean energy.”

Representative Ultrino was also part of a core group of legislators working under the leadership of Representative Lori Ehrlich, to pass an amendment that addresses the 25,000+ gas leaks in the Commonwealth. The amendment would remove the disincentive for gas companies to fix the leaks in addition to requiring leaks to be fixed while roads are already being worked on.

Other provisions include:

- All contract proposals must go through a competitive bidding process;

- Contracts must be determined to be cost-effective for ratepayers to be approved;

- Stipulates that eligible offshore wind developers must build projects in federally leased waters;

By creating a framework that includes both offshore wind and hydropower this legislation promotes a diverse energy portfolio that will replace some of the power the Commonwealth is losing from older, dirtier sources scheduled to shut down. With a similarly forward-looking perspective, the focus on offshore wind will cultivate a new industry and create jobs here in Massachusetts.

The legislation includes a series of ratepayer protections including a requirement that the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Attorney General jointly-select an independent evaluator to assist the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to determine whether the procurement process is open, fair, and transparent.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Ultrino, Legislature Approve Major Public Record Reform

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass the first major overhaul of the state’s public records law in over 40 years.

Last year, Representative Ultrino provided testimony in support of the public records bill, which he also co-sponsored, to the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. The final legislation was approved this week by both the House and the Senate.

This bill include updates on the fees and costs that government agencies can charge for public records that are requested as well as allowing municipalities to adjust the timeframe for them to produce the records. In addition to this, records access officers are allowed 15 days after the initial request to produce any of the records that were requested to the agency. The bill also gives courts the power to award reasonable punitive damages to people who were wrongly denied access to any public records.

“This new law reaffirms our belief that transparency and good government are fundamental parts of our democracy, and that our public records law should meet the needs of the 21st century,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “The Internet Age has created more opportunities for citizens to interact with their government, and this law will ensure that governments are stepping up to the challenge.”

Rep. Ultrino Hosts Event to Promote Senior Housing Stability

MALDEN – Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden) joined community organizations and providers in hosting a forum addressing senior housing and homelessness concerns and sharing resources for Malden’s seniors.

“Many of Malden’s seniors have lived in our community for decades, while others are just getting to know our city,” said Representative Ultrino. “These people are our friends and neighbors, and they deserve services that fit their needs and allow them to continue to live with dignity.”

Representative Ultrino emphasized that helping seniors is a major priority for him in the legislature, citing his work on the recent FY17 House budget, as well as his service on the Legislature’s Joint Committees on Elder Affairs, Public Health, and Health Care Financing. He also is a member of the board of Monsignor Neagle, a low-income housing complex also in Malden.

The event, Building Elder Housing Stability, was held at the Malden Senior Center, where Malden seniors came to listen and ask questions to a panel which included Representative Steve Ultrino and representatives from organizations such as Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), the Malden Housing Authority, Boston Medical Center, Mystic Valley Elder Services, and Mass Senior Action Council. The panel discussed issues surrounding senior mental health, homelessness, rising health care and prescription drug costs, and securing permanent housing.

The panel brought awareness to various resources that their organizations provide in regards to these issues. They also highlighted areas of improvement and ways in which providers and policymakers could better serve this growing population.

“With the expected rapid increase of the senior population in Massachusetts, it is important that we start to invest more in homecare and finding ways to help seniors now,” said Representative Steve Ultrino. “Mental health and housing costs both contribute to the growing elderly homeless population. We need to tackle both and provide the necessary resources in order better serve our seniors.”

 

Ultrino Joins Colleagues to Pass Bill Enhancing Support for Veterans and their Families

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in voting for recently passed veterans legislation with an emphasis on housing and long-term support.

The bill establishes the Office of State Veterans’ Homes and Housing which will advise the Department of Veterans’ Services and provide oversight for the Commonwealth’s two soldiers’ homes in Chelsea and Holyoke. It creates an Executive Director position to head the new office. The Executive Director will focus on long-term care and will be responsible for the coordinated implementation and enforcement of laws, regulations and policies.

“I am immensely proud and humbled that Massachusetts ranks first in the nation when it comes to military-benefit programs and services,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “It’s so important that we provide comprehensive services for military personnel both while they are on active duty and when they return home. The House recognizes the unique contributions that veterans can make to the economy and the fabric of our society and we want to support that in every way possible”

“Our veterans and active service members give so much to our community and to our nation, but too often they don’t receive the support they need once they return home,” said Representative Ultrino (D – Malden). “This legislation reaffirms Massachusetts’ place as first in the nation in veterans services, and makes real progress in our efforts to better serve our service members and veterans.”

Understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home, the Massachusetts House has consistently provided a continuum of employment, health care, educational and housing support. Correspondingly, this bill increases access to housing authorities for disabled, elderly and potentially unemployable veterans through two provisions. It also updates existing law so that “Veterans Status” is a clearly protected employment category. Currently only active duty personnel are covered.

In addition:

  • Currently only children of Vietnam Era prisoners of war (POWs) are eligible for the Public Service Scholarship. This legislation would extend eligibility to all children of POWs;

  • To accurately reflect the realities of present-day military training, paid public-service leave would now apply to uniformed service officers under this legislation;

  • Extends a total property tax-exemption to service-connected blind veterans who have a 100% disability rating;

  • Fully abates any property taxes due by a surviving spouse following the death or MIA status of a soldier, sailor or member of the National Guard;

  • Extends the Veterans’ Long-term Care Commission and reworks the Post-Deployment Council, both of which were created through the 2014 VALOR Act and focus on housing and support services for veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

House Passes FY17 Budget

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D-Malden) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass its FY17 budget which aims to provide opportunities for all residents through investments in multiple areas including local aid, enhanced support for early education and care (EEC), and programs to help those battling addiction and homelessness.

The spending bill, approximately $39.5 billion, highlights the House’s ongoing commitment to balancing fiscal prudence with targeted social service investments, a practice that has resulted in Massachusetts retaining its AA+ bond rating, the highest in the state’s history. The budget includes no new taxes or fees and reduces the Commonwealth’s reliance on one-time revenue sources. For the second year in a row, it does not withdraw any funds from the stabilization fund.

 “Through fiscal responsibility and thoughtful, forward-looking investments this budget supports citizens of all backgrounds, particularly the most vulnerable among us,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am particularly proud of our investments in early education and care, elder affairs and substance addiction programs. I thank Chairman Dempsey, the House Ways & Means Committee and the members of the House for their outstanding work on this budget.”

“In another difficult budget year, we were able to make some key investments that will resonate in Malden and throughout the Commonwealth,” said Representative Steve Ultrino.

In addition to success with several of Representative Ultrino’s budget amendments, a full 48 of Representative Ultrino’s co-sponsored amendments were implemented in part or in full after this year’s budget debate, including amendments dealing with education, health care, homelessness, senior care, and more.

The budget extends the House’s longstanding reputation as a champion of municipalities. With increases in both local education funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), this budget raises local aid by $159 million from FY16. It provides $55 in per-pupil-aid, more than doubling last year’s expenditure, and fully funds Special Education Circuit Breaker.

Representative Ultrino also led the push in the House for full funded of the charter school reimbursement line item, a major source of aid to cities like Malden that has been chronically underfunded. Although funding traditionally falls short, this year’s efforts garnered historic support and attention from key organizations and more than fifty state representatives who signed on to the amendment.

“Representative Ultrino’s charter school reimbursement amendment was a key priority for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees,” said MASC Executive Director Glenn Koocher. “Representative Ultrino’s leadership on this issue has really strengthened our coalition, and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we strive for more funding for our cities and their schools.”

Recognizing the immense impact that high-quality EEC has on the lives of our residents – both children and adults – the budget makes targeted investments to support the EEC workforce while expanding access to high-quality programming. EEC investments include a $15 million rate reserve, continued support for expanding pre-kindergarten opportunities, and $2M to ensure access to quality EEC programming.

The budget also provides $18.6 million for Kindergarten Expansion Grants.

For the fifth year in a row, this budget increases funding for community colleges, state universities and UMass. It also provides:

-       $96.6 million for a state scholarship program which benefits Massachusetts residents attending both private and public colleges;

-       $4.75 million for the STEM Starter Academy, a House-created initiative for community college students which has shown notable early success;

-       $1.7 million to support inclusive higher education learning opportunities for students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 22 years.

Recognizing that education and economic development are intrinsically paired, the budget enhances the House’s focus on bolstering job opportunities for residents of all skillsets in diverse regions of the Commonwealth through programs including:

-       Invests $2 million in the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund, to promote the big data and analytics industries, provide tools for related career development and explore how analytics can help address problems of public concern;

-       MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish and enhance widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private matching program;

-       Provides $2 million for technical grants for small business;

-       Provides $3 million in grants for an urban competitive grant program;

-       Talent Pipeline: $1.5 million to encourage young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and to provide mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs;

-       Continues to fund the Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership, a program that continues to show results in closing the skills gap, and provides $1.5 million for the precision manufacturing workforce development fund.

Since FY12, the Legislature has increased funding for substance addiction services by more than 65% and passed two landmark bills to help address this public health epidemic. This year’s budget makes notable investments for behavioral health, including new funding of more than $28 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and $13 million for the Department of Mental Health. These investments include:

-       $2 million for 46 new transitional support services beds, boosting the state’s capacity by more than 13 percent;

-       $2 million for new supportive case management services that will benefit 500 families;

-       Funding for 45 substance addiction treatment beds at Taunton State Hospital;

-       $1.5 million to expand district attorney trafficking and heroin diversion programs;

-       A $3 million pilot for Medication Assisted Therapy in emergency rooms.

In additional to behavioral health and substance addiction initiatives, the House’s budget features numerous provisions to support Massachusetts’ most vulnerable citizens including: 

-       Increases the Department of Children & Families’ budget by more than $23 million. A portion of this funding will support new and recently hired employees;

-       Increases the Department of Developmental Services’ budget by $45 million;

-       Boosts funding for Family Respite Services to assist an addition 3,000;

-       Provides more than $30 million for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and treatment programs;

-       Increases the Councils on Aging formula grant to $10 per individual, per year.

The House has a longstanding history of enacting effective programs to combat homelessness. As of March 31, 2016, Massachusetts’ shelter population fell below 4,000 for the first time since August of 2013; and the number of families in hotels and motels has dropped by more than 1,500. This year the House continues to enhance its efforts by:

-       Providing more than $155 million for the Emergency Assistance Family Shelter Program;

-       Since FY10 funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) has increased by more than 300%. This year MRVP is funded at $100 million which will result in 375 new vouchers;

-       Funding the HomeBASE program at $31.9 million.

MassHealth remains the largest expense in the Commonwealth’s budget. Notably, this legislation contains MassHealth spending growth to 5 percent from FY16 while maintaining member benefits and eligibility. It provides the Health Safety Net with a $15 million transfer and institutes a five-year Delivery System Reform Incentive Program to maximize federal funding as the state moves toward an accountable-care-organization model of health care delivery.

The budget will now go to the Senate.