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Proxy voting initiative seeks to influence corporate boards

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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

GOLDBERG PROXY VOTING INITIATIVE SEEKS TO INFLUENCE CORPORATE BOARDS

Story Developing. Signaling a more activist era at the state Treasury, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg on Thursday proposed that the state use its $61 billion pension fund to make a stand on corporate diversity, environmental stewardship and wage equality. A subcommittee of the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board signed off Thursday on a new policy developed by Goldberg that would direct PRIM to use its proxy vote as an investor to oppose nominees to corporate boards unless at least 25 percent of a board’s membership is made up of women and minorities. Goldberg’s policy would also direct PRIM to vote for corporate policies that invest in renewable energy and would ask companies in which PRIM invests to provide their energy efficiency policies, to stop “misleading advertising” to young people, to increase health warnings on cigarettes, to adopt formal recycling policies, to implement human rights standards and workplace codes of conduct and to link executive pay to non-financial benchmarks such as meeting environmental goals, community involvement and customer and employee satisfaction. “Demanding that companies create diverse leadership teams and confront the threat of climate change are no longer simply admirable social goals,” Goldberg said in a statement. “These reforms will help protect the stability and financial success of the companies that we invest in.” Under Goldberg’s directive, PRIM would also urge companies to “lead on the issue of wage equality” and “proactively seek to hire a diverse workforce.” PRIM holds stock in roughly 9,000 companies, and can vote on corporate policies and board appointments as a shareholder. Under Treasurer Steve Grossman, the pension fund’s policy was to oppose corporate board nominees unless the board had at least one person of color or one woman. Goldberg, who took over in January, said at a meeting of PRIM’s administration and audit committee that the changes are a “critical ingredient” of their investment strategies. The full board will vote on the new policy when it meets on April 7. – Matt Murphy, Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

Story Developing. Signaling a more activist era at the state Treasury, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg on Thursday proposed that the state use its $61 billion pension fund to make a stand on corporate diversity, environmental stewardship and wage equality. A subcommittee of the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board signed off Thursday on a new policy developed by Goldberg that would direct PRIM to use its proxy vote as an investor to oppose nominees to corporate boards unless at least 25 percent of a board’s membership is made up of women and minorities. Goldberg’s policy would also direct PRIM to vote for corporate policies that invest in renewable energy and would ask companies in which PRIM invests to provide their energy efficiency policies, to stop “misleading advertising” to young people, to increase health warnings on cigarettes, to adopt formal recycling policies, to implement human rights standards and workplace codes of conduct and to link executive pay to non-financial benchmarks such as meeting environmental goals, community involvement and customer and employee satisfaction. “Demanding that companies create diverse leadership teams and confront the threat of climate change are no longer simply admirable social goals,” Goldberg said in a statement. “These reforms will help protect the stability and financial success of the companies that we invest in.” Under Goldberg’s directive, PRIM would also urge companies to “lead on the issue of wage equality” and “proactively seek to hire a diverse workforce.” PRIM holds stock in roughly 9,000 companies, and can vote on corporate policies and board appointments as a shareholder. Under Treasurer Steve Grossman, the pension fund’s policy was to oppose corporate board nominees unless the board had at least one person of color or one woman. Goldberg, who took over in January, said at a meeting of PRIM’s administration and audit committee that the changes are a “critical ingredient” of their investment strategies. The full board will vote on the new policy when it meets on April 7. – Matt Murphy, Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE SET FOR MIDYEAR SPENDING BILL

After loading up a time-sensitive spending bill with policy matters, Democratic legislative leaders are unable to reach a consensus informally and have appointed a six-member conference committee to try to reach an accord. High-ranking House and Senate Ways and Means committee members will negotiate the final version of a roughly $350 million midyear spending bill (H 65/S 21). The Senate on Thursday appointed Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairman Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and Sen. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), the ranking Republican on Ways and Means. The House on Wednesday appointed House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill), House Ways and Means Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and Rep. Todd Smola (R-Warren), the ranking Republican on the committee. Among other issues, the two legislative branches are split on whether to allow the University of Massachusetts to retain its tuition and whether to raise the amount of winnings slot machine players can keep before triggering a tax reporting requirement. – Andy Metzger/SHNS

HOUSE IN BID TO AID SUFFOLK DOWNS

With just days until a license is set to expire for Suffolk Downs, the House passed a bill Thursday giving the racetrack another month to simulcast races while lawmakers continue work on legislation allowing live racing to continue for the next two years at the track. Suffolk Downs’ license to simulcast is due to expire on March 31. The bill passed in the House Thursday gives the track until April 30. After losing out on its bid to partner with Mohegan Sun for a casino in Revere, Suffolk Downs announced in late February that it had reached an agreement with the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on a two-year deal to lease the East Boston track to the horsemen. The agreement, which would allow for live horse racing in 2015 and 2016, is subject to approval by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the Legislature. The lease has not yet gone before the Gaming Commission for approval. The House and Senate both passed measures in a midyear spending bill that would authorize simulcasting and up to 50 days of live horse racing at Suffolk Downs through July 31, 2016. That bill has bogged down over disagreements between Democratic legislative leaders on other policy matters. The budget bills (H 65/S 21) were officially sent to a conference committee on Thursday. – Matt Murphy, Colleen Quinn/SHNS

TEEN PARENTS PRESS FOR BUDGET SUPPORT

When Ciara Mejia became pregnant at 16 years old, she could not understand why people were not happy for her. “Instead they felt sad for me,” she told other teen parents gathered in the State House Thursday. Mejia said she and her son had to fight stereotypes and negative comments from people. She said she was scared, but confident that she and her baby would be alright. She graduated from Norwood High School, and now works to help other teen parents find their way. The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy held its annual Teen Parent Lobby Day to push for high school dropout prevention and funding for other teen-parent programs in the fiscal 2016 budget. The alliance is looking for $3 million in the fiscal 2016 budget, about $500,000 more than Gov. Charlie Baker recommended in his budget. The alliance says there are geographic disparities in the teen birth rate in Massachusetts, and more resources are needed to address the inequities. In 2013 the teen birth rate in Holyoke was 46.4 per 1,000 young women aged 15 to 19. In Boston, the birth rate was 12.2 per 1,000 in 2013. Rep. James O’Day (D-West Boylston), who co-sponsored the event along with Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), told the group “the power to change is really within all of you.” O’Day said, “You all have the power to make Massachusetts the single best place to raise a family, whether a single parent or teen parent.”

PENSION FUND BOARD EYEING SMALLER BUDGET

State pension board officials on Thursday offered preliminary approval for a smaller budget in fiscal year 2016. The administration and audit committee of the Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) board advanced a projected $347.7 million fiscal 2016 budget, a decrease of $12 million, or 3.3 percent, from fiscal year 2015. Officials overseeing the state’s $66.1 billion fund said the budget decrease was driven by an effort to reduce fees and costs of fund managers. The full board is scheduled to meet on April 7. – Gintautas Dumcius/SHNS

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