During the ongoing Massachusetts 191st General Court’s 2019-2020 session – which has been extended through legislative action – the House has passed emergency legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as major legislation relating to education, transportation, and climate change.
Following a decisive vote in July to extend the formal legislative session, the House remains at work on bills vital to the Commonwealth. This vote followed the passage of major legislation relating to the COVID-19 State of Emergency which extended unemployment benefits, protected public health, and instituted landmark provisions for remote voting in the House and mail-in voting for local, state and federal elections in 2020. The emergency legislation also included one of the strongest moratoriums in the country protecting tenants and homeowners from eviction and foreclosure.
In a difficult fiscal climate, the House also voted to keep Chapter 90 level-funded at $200 million for key repairs for the maintenance of municipal roads and bridges in Massachusetts. As part of a sweeping economic development bill, the House passed legislation to support small businesses and at-risk populations and make investments in affordable housing. The House also approved an $18 billion investment in the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure.
In keeping with the House’s ongoing commitment to protecting public health and safety, the House passed health care legislation facilitating the use of telemedicine and strengthening community hospitals. The House also passed legislation aimed at eliminating racial inequities in maternal health that have resulted in women of color dying of pregnancy-related causes at more than double the rate of white women. In its policing reform bill, the House voted to establish a certification process for police, create an independent oversight board, and codify restrictions on use of force.
Building on past leadership in climate policy, the House also passed legislation setting a statewide 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions limit, establishing environmental justice population criteria, increasing statewide renewable energy requirements, and bolstering green programs for underserved populations.
In keeping with the House’s commitment to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children and families, in May, the House announced the formation of its Early Education and Care (EEC) Recovery Advisory Group. The group established the EEC Public-Private Trust Fund, creating infrastructure to foster public-private and philanthropic efforts for childcare providers, including $500,000 for technical and small business support during the recovery process.
In 2019, the House passed several pieces of landmark legislation including an historic $1.5 billion statewide investment in public schools – known as the Student Opportunity Act. Given the long-term importance of the transportation infrastructure to the region, the House also passed the $600 million investment in new transportation funding.
In addition, the House passed legislation to protect college students by ensuring higher education financial stability and oversight. The House also banned conversion therapy for minors, ensured no student in-need would go hungry by requiring breakfast after the school bell, and provided added funding for women’s reproductive health as part of a supplemental state budget.
Working to protect vulnerable children and families in the Commonwealth prior to the onset of the COVID-19 emergency, the House voted to lift a decades-old welfare cap to extend cash benefits to 8,700 Massachusetts children and their families who had previously been excluded. The House also passed legislation creating a care registry to protect persons with intellectual or developmental disability from abuse.
“I’m proud that my colleagues in the house and I have been able to deliver for working people during an extremely difficult time,” said Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden). “As the session closes, I vow to continue the fight for the resources we need to provide all Maldonians with quality education, transportation and health care during this crisis.”
For more information on COVID-19 specific legislation, please visit Representative Ultrino’s website at representativeultrino.com or contact his office at (617) 722-2460