House Passes Comprehensive Domestic Violence Legislation

Diana joined her colleagues in the House to pass comprehensive domestic violence legislation which creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts and seeks to empower victims.

The legislation establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge that will allow officials to immediately identify an offender who has a history of domestic violence and take appropriate punitive action. As a result, a second offense charge of domestic violence will include cases in which a first offense had resulted in probation or a continuance without a finding. The bill also creates a specific charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that statistically indicate an abuser is more likely to commit domestic violence related homicide in the future.

“We in the Legislature must ensure our state laws effectively help to protect women and families against domestic violence,” said Diana. “This is strong and comprehensive legislation designed to both protect victims and crack down on serial abusers. I stand with my colleagues in celebrating its passage.”

The bill provides enhanced resources to help balance prevention and punishment. By standardizing records and mandating that they are shared across jurisdictions, the legislation ensures key decision-makers have the most accurate information and that parties have access to an offender’s complete history.

The bill abolishes the antiquated practice of allowing accord and satisfaction, a practice in which parties agree to a private financial settlement, in domestic violence cases and establishes the below crimes:

• Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery near a court house;
•Domestic assault or domestic assault and battery with the intent to intimidate or prevent access to courts.
In an effort to consistently improve prevention efforts the legislation establishes enhanced training programs and creates Domestic Fatality Review Teams which will investigate domestic violence related fatalities. The state-level review teams will serve as a tool to help officials understand any shortcomings present in current protocol.

The bill also includes the following provisions:

•Delays bail for offenders to provide the victim with time for safety planning and authorizes the revocation bail in certain cases;

•Establishes employment leave for victims of domestic violence;

•Establishes fees for domestic violence offenses. These will be invested in the newly created Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance fund;

•Broadens court authorization related to custody and support orders;

•Requires law enforcement agencies to provide information on batterer’s intervention to defendants when serving them with a Chapter 209A restraining order.

The legislation also promotes innovative approaches such as multi-disciplinary high risk teams and a grants program to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence. The bill passed the House unanimously.

Methuen High School Holds Distracted Driving Day

Distracted Driving

Diana in coordination with Superintendent Judith Scannell and local community leaders and teachers organized the first-ever End Distracted Driving Day for Methuen High School Juniors and Seniors.

Saba Hashem and President J. Michael Conley of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA) presided over the presentation, offering statistics on the safety crisis and asking students if they were ever guilty of distracted driving themselves. Most raised their hands. Shown during the program were videos of drivers texting and engaging in other distracting activities at the wheel. More than 500,000 Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents annually, roughly 20 percent of which are caused by distracted driving.

Over the past three years, MATA has been the lead Massachusetts consumer advocacy group for distracted driving. This effort began following the tragic death of Casey Feldman, daughter of trial lawyer Joel Feldman, who was killed by a distracted driver. Joel created the Casey Feldman Foundation and EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) in her honor and it is Casey’s passing that inspires MATA to continue its initiative.

“Distracted driving is a very serious danger to the community,” said Hashem, who is a resident of Methuen. “This is not only a teen problem, it’s everyone’s problem and it is important to empower teens to have conversations with their parents and other adults and their classmates and friends so we can end distracted driving. It is a threat to the community.”

“We need to build awareness of the dangers of distracted driving,” said Emily Stein, whose father was tragically killed by a distracted driver. “It’s not just a teen problem, it’s a problem for everyone of all ages. We hope they bring this issue home to their parents to discuss their parents’ driving habits as well. It’s also about encouraging teens to make safe choices. After all, there is nothing more important than their safety. This was a great event and the kids were amazing.”

“The presentation was outstanding, the message was clear to students that texting while driving impacts many people with very serious consequences,” said Superintendent Scannell. “The video as well as the guest speaker hit home. Let’s hope the message spreads.”

“The presentation was timely and most appropriate for both students and staff,” said Ann Marie Krusell, Department Chair of English at Methuen High. “The video clips, discussion points, and speakers made a profound impression on the audience with poignant and memorable moments. All were touched by the honesty of the presentation and the universal appeal, which resonates with every individual. Resulting in class discussions for the rest of the day, students attached personal meaning and resolved to make better choices. Wearing pink and black bracelets as they left the building, our school and community has embraced the true meaning of being “distracted” as they face the future being much more aware. We hope to make this an annual event.”

“I don’t think teenagers, even adults for that matter, realize the severity of distracted driving,” said student Adam Marchand. “It only takes a second of distraction to take someone’s life. It’s really scary.”

“I truly thought the assembly was very eye opening and very close to everybody’s heart, because we all know of someone who drives distracted and some of us are even victims of this as well,” said student Rima Rustom. “It was great to be reminded that we could and should prevent things like that, because if I don’t want it to happen to my mom or brother, then I’m sure no one else would want to either.”

“This is an issue of public safety and I am glad we had the opportunity to address the students in time for prom season and before summer break when they will be on the road more often. I want to thank Mr. Hashem, Mr. Conley, Emily, Superintendent Scannell, the amazing teachers and students of Methuen High and everyone else graciously in attendance,” said Diana.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving means any activity that could divert one’s attention away from the task of driving. This includes not just texting or making phone calls, but any activity that’s liable to distract, such as eating or reading.

For additional information on distracted driving, please visit www.enddd.org.

North Andover Seniors Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Style

Diana visits with Mr. and Mrs. Padova of North Andover at the North Andover Senior Center during a recent St. Patrick’s Day Lunch.

Diana visits with Mr. and Mrs. Padova of North Andover at the North Andover Senior Center during a recent St. Patrick’s Day Lunch.

The North Andover Senior Center recently held a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon to celebrate the upcoming holiday and bring members of the community together for great food and conversation.

The event, which drew attendance from nearly 100 members of the community, was catered by A Haute Dish, located in North Andover and owned by Jennifer Broberg. The luncheon was sponsored by Diana.

“The North Andover Senior Center is the only municipal-funded resource and referral agency for the older adults living in the North Andover community,” said Irene M. O’Brien, elder service director for the Town of North Andover. “Social events like the St. Patrick’s luncheon hosted by Representative Diana DiZoglio support education as well as keep our older adults socially engaged, independent and active in the community.”

“It was an immense pleasure hosting this St. Patrick’s Day Lunch for all of the talented and vivacious North Andover seniors,” said Diana. “Turnout was terrific, the food was excellent and we had so many engaging conversations. It’s so important that we bring members of the community together like this and I truly cannot wait to again visit the Senior Center.”

Senate Passes Campaign Finance Reform

On the heels of its passage by the Massachusetts House of Representatives last November, the Massachusetts Senate has voted to enact campaign finance reform legislation sponsored by Diana.

Under House Bill 3760, An Act relative to strengthening campaign finance reporting requirements, current campaign finance report law is extended to candidates for municipal office who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Under prior law, candidates for state or county office who failed to file campaign finance reports were prohibited from appearing on an election ballot, yet this law did not apply to municipal candidates.

“With the passage of this legislation, candidates in municipal elections who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance will be held to the same standards as those running in county and state elections,” said Diana. “I want to express my gratitude to, among others, Senators Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) for their tireless work in advancing through the legislative process a common sense bill that will bring more transparency to our government. This required a bipartisan team effort and without their willingness to meet with me and discuss this issue, this legislation would not have made it as far as it has.”

“This bill will strengthen our campaign finance laws and increase transparency in our elections by holding all candidates who file with OCPF equally accountable,” said Finegold. “It is a common sense measure, and I applaud Representative DiZoglio for taking the lead on this important issue.”

“Access to the ballot should be for people who play by the rules, and the campaign finance rules are in place to make sure that political funding is transparent and accountable,” said Tarr. “This bill ensures that municipal elections will also have the benefit of those rules.”

“With this legislation, mayoral candidates in large cities will no longer be able to break campaign finance laws and still get on the ballot,” said O’Connor Ives. “This bill strengthens the public’s access to election information and holds accountable those candidates for public office who do not disclose donor information on time.”

“Throughout this legislative session, Representative DiZoglio has worked to strengthen campaign finance requirements and prevent voting irregularities,” said Eldridge. “This measure would ensure that integrity and fairness is in place during elections and will create more transparency in government.”

Diana Brings Civic Education Tour to Lawrence

Lawrence Civic Education Day

Diana recently visited the South Lawrence East Middle School (SLE), marking the latest stop in her Civic Education Tour to engage and educate students across the Merrimack Valley.

The program, which the Representative has brought to schools in North Andover, Methuen and Haverhill, went over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and, through interactive exercises, was designed to educate students about what it means to be a citizen and how to be active in the democratic process. During the event, students participated in mock legislative and judicial hearings, the latter conducted by Michael J. Ryan of the Office of Jury Commissioner for the Commonwealth.

“The Civic Education Day at the South Lawrence East Middle School was a huge success,” said SLE Principal Alyce Merlino. “The students were part of one of the fundamental processes of American democracy, a jury duty. I want to thank Representative DiZoglio so much for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this most important presentation.”

“This program helps students understand how our government works so that we can be involved in the future,” said student Yanira Cruz.

“Representative DiZoglio believes we, the students of Lawrence, can make a difference,” said student Caroline Mejia. “She came here to our school as a model for our community.”

“We learned that our State Representative is always there for us, which is good, we like to be heard,” said student Yelissa Torres.

“I love how our Representative was born here and understands where we are coming from,” said student Kyara Gonzalez. “We feel more connected to her.”

“I like how Mr. Ryan kept us involved in what he was doing,” said student Lisbeth Burgos. “It was a fun and interesting experience.”

“I was truly honored to be among so many bright and talented students as I spoke about how ideas become laws and involved the students in an interactive mock committee hearing,” said Diana, who has sponsored legislation to establish a comprehensive student civic education program. “I look forward to visiting additional schools in Lawrence and across the Merrimack Valley in the months to come to educate students on how our government works.”

In many of today’s high schools, civic education is often only offered toward the end of a student’s studies, in twelfth grade. On the latest national civics assessment, administered in 2006 by the National Assessment Governing Board, two-thirds of students scored below “proficient.” In 2010, more than a quarter of college students reported they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to do so.

“Our classrooms all too often lack a strong civic learning program to educate students about what state government does in our daily lives,” said Diana. “It is critical that our youth begin to grasp these concepts to ensure they are able to actively participate in the democratic process as they enter adulthood.”

“It is critical for students to have an understanding of our judicial system early on, given they should be prepared to serve jury duty as soon as high school,” said Ryan.

In addition to the South Lawrence East Middle School, Diana has visited North Andover High School, Methuen High School and Haverhill’s Hunking Middle School on her Civic Education Tour.

The Representative will next take the tour to Lawrence High School in April, the Wetherbee Elementary School in May and plans to visit additional schools in the future as well. She will also host a Distracted Driving Day at Methuen High School later this month.

Diana Honors North Andover Tap Team

Chippendales #1

Diana hosted a celebration at the State House honoring Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studio, which recently achieved enormous success competing in the 2013 World Tap Championships.

Seventy-three dancers from the studio, which is based in North Andover, participated as they toured the State House and gathered for a photo atop the building’s Grand Staircase with area lawmakers. The studio and Chippendale herself were honored with congratulatory citations for their exemplary work.

Representing the United States in Riesa, Germany at the World Tap Championships in December, the dancers competed against 30 other countries for gold, silver and bronze prizes and had the opportunity to travel to Dresden, Meissen, Leipzig, Berlin and Prague.

By the end of the championships, the dancers had brought home five gold, three silver and two bronze prizes.

“It was an honor for us to represent the USA at the World Tap Championships last December,” said Chippendale. “We are very proud of our accomplishments and were pleased to have a private tour of the State House. Thank you to our State Representative, Diana DiZoglio, for arranging this tour and for helping us to celebrate the accomplishments of our dancers.”

“It was such a thrill to see so many amazing and talented dancers from ‘Chips’ in North Andover represent the nation in the World Tap Championships,” said Diana, who represents a large part of North Andover in the Legislature. “It was a pleasure hosting them in the State House for a tour of a building and celebration of their outstanding accomplishments, both here and overseas.”

House Passes Supplementary Budget, Freezes Unemployment Insurance Rate

Diana joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that, for the fifth consecutive year, freezes a scheduled increase in the unemployment insurance (UI) assessment paid by all employers.

This action is estimated to relieve the average employer from an approximate 30 percent increase for UI per employee while allowing employees to receive the same benefits under this rate. In the coming months the House plans to systemically improve the UI system as it addresses minimum wage.

Because the House recognizes the challenges residents face during the winter, this legislation provides an additional $20 million for heating assistance and about $45 million to provide low-income homeless families with access to housing. Additionally, the Department of Transportation may spend up to additional $50 million for snow and ice removal dependent on the state’s needs.

The bill includes a $15 million recapitalization of the Brownfield’s redevelopment fund which will allow the current pipeline of projects to continue and increase development opportunities on currently vacant and underutilized properties across the Commonwealth.

The bill also provides increased funding for the Department of Children and Families (DCF), homelessness programs, and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

“This supplemental budget includes targeted funding for time-sensitive programs and services. We provide $20 million for the federal LIHEAP program to ensure that the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents remain safe and warm throughout the winter months,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “We also implement an Unemployment Insurance rate freeze to encourage important economic opportunities as we progress through 2014 for both employers and workers. We also recapitalize the highly successful Brownfields Redevelopment program and include funding to cover the costs of snow and ice removal, supporting the many small businesses that contract with the state to keep our roads safe.”

The supplemental budget allocates $2.78 million to DCF, thus providing adequate funds to meet the department’s request of a 15:1 caseload ratio. This action follows increases in DCF funding over the past three budget cycles.

“Having worked with low-income families and abused children for years, I am thrilled that this budget focuses on the safety of our community’s most vulnerable population,” Diana said. “There must be a continuous effort to keep our children safe and that requires adequate resources. I was happy to see that this budget gained bipartisan support, as it will also assist in keeping our roads safe and clean through the remainder of winter.”

This bill passed the House 146 to 2 and now moves on to the Senate.

State Grants Awarded to Merrimack Valley Stormwater Collaborative

IMG_9530

Diana has announced the Merrimack Valley Stormwater Collaborative has been named a recipient of $145,000 in the Fiscal Year 2014 round of the Community Innovation Challenge (CIC) grant program.

The CIC program, now in its third year, was established in 2012 to incentivize innovative projects at the local level. More than $10 million has been invested into 242 cities and towns across the Commonwealth with the support of the Massachusetts General Court and Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

With the leadership of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commisssion (MVPC), the Town of North Andover, and the cities of Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, are among the communities participating in the Stormwater Collaborative, which will explore solutions to the problems associated with untreated stormwater that are low-cost and promote regional cooperation and communication.

The MVPC, a public, nonprofit organization which represents 15 communities across the Merrimack Valley, has for decades been committed to assisting the area in planning matters on transportation, land use, the environment and economic development. It has joined with local public works and engineering personnel on comprehensive management programs pertaining to stormwater, which, when left untreated, often contains dangerous pollutants and can contaminate local water supplies.

“This grant will prove invaluable in assisting efforts across the Merrimack Valley to address the environmental and health concerns that come with untreated stormwater,” Diana said. “It is an incredibly important initiative and I join my legislative colleagues from the Merrimack Valley in celebrating the awarding of this generous grant.”

Diana Visits North Andover High School on Civic Education Tour

NorthAndoverCivicEducationDay

Marking the latest stop in her initiative to engage and educate students across the Merrimack Valley about the democratic process, Diana visited North Andover High School on Friday, November 15.

Held in the school’s auditorium, the program, which was organized by North Andover High graduate Nick Pangakis, covered the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and, through interactive exercises, was designed to educate students about what it means to be a citizen and how to be involved in the democratic process. During the event, students had the opportunity to participate in mock legislative and judicial hearings, the latter conducted by Michael J. Ryan of the Office of Jury Commissioner for the Commonwealth.

“I was delighted to be among so many fantastic North Andover High students as I spoke about how ideas become laws and engaged the students in an interactive mock committee hearing,” said Diana, who has sponsored a bill to establish a comprehensive student civic education program. “I look forward to visiting more schools across the Merrimack Valley in the months to come to discuss how our government works.”

“Involving students as part of the presentation was a great way to keep people interested so that they could learn a thing about our government that they never knew before,” said student Joe Mosby.

“The presentation helped to establish a practical sense of what goes on at the state level of government, even though the federal government is more widely discussed,” said student Dillon MacInnis.

“I learned the difference between the federal and state branches, which is stuff I hadn’t learned before,” said student Brendan Hartford.

“Rep. DiZoglio and Mike Ryan did a great job of keeping the program interesting and entertaining,” said student Matt Varoutsos. “I really enjoyed it.”

“I thought the mock judiciary hearing was very helpful in seeing how trials work,” said student Emily Crabtree.

In many of today’s high schools, civic learning is often only offered toward the end of a student’s studies, in twelfth grade. On the most recent national civics assessment, administered in 2006 by the National Assessment Governing Board, two-thirds of students scored below “proficient.” In 2010, more than a quarter of college students reported they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to do so.

“All too often, our classrooms lack a strong civic education program to inform students about what state government does in our daily lives,” said Diana. “It is important that youth begin to genuinely grasp these basic concepts to ensure they are able to actively participate and engage in the process as they are entering into adulthood.”

“It is critical for students to have an understanding of our judicial system early on, given they should be prepared to serve jury duty as soon as high school,” said Ryan.

In addition to North Andover High School, Diana has visited Methuen High School and Haverhill’s Hunking Middle School on her Merrimack Valley Civic Education Tour. The Representative plans to next take the tour to Lawrence.

House Passes Campaign Finance Reform

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has voted unanimously to enact campaign finance reform legislation, sponsored by Diana.

Under House Bill 3719, An Act to strengthen campaign finance reporting requirements, current campaign finance report law will be extended to candidates for municipal office who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Under prior law, candidates for state or county office who failed to file campaign finance reports could not appear on a primary or election ballot, yet this law did not apply to municipal candidates.

Moments before the House voted in favor of its enactment, Diana took to the floor to advocate for the bill’s passage.

“This legislation will ensure that candidates in municipal elections who file with the office of Campaign and Political Finance are held to the same standards as candidates in county and state elections,” Diana said, in her speech. “I want to thank House Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws James Murphy and his staff for their tireless work on this bill. It is my hope that we stand on a united front right now, not as Democrats and Republicans but as statesmen and stateswomen, in supporting common sense legislation to bring more transparency to our government.”

“As Vice Chair of the Committee on Election Laws, I applaud the efforts of Rep. DiZoglio,” said State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen). “Many citywide local races involve large expenditures and the public has a right to expect that local candidates are bound by the same requirements as all other elected officials regarding campaign finance reporting.”

“I commend my colleague Diana DiZoglio, a proud member of the Lawrence delegation, for introducing this important bill,” said State Rep. Marcos A. Devers (D-Lawrence). “This legislation reaffirms the Legislature’s commitment to good ethics.”

“This is a great piece of legislation that strengthens campaign finance reporting requirements and I want to thank Representative DiZoglio for sponsoring it,” said State Rep. Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence).