Diana Hosts 14th Essex Senior Day on Beacon Hill

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Diana recently hosted the North Andover, Methuen and Lawrence Senior Centers for a visit at the Massachusetts State House.

Nearly 100 Merrimack Valley seniors participated in the visit, as they toured the State House and joined Diana and fellow local legislators for a meet-and-greet over coffee and pastries.

Diana brought the seniors into the House Chamber to provide a hands-on civics lesson on the legislative process in the Commonwealth. The seniors sat in the seats of lawmakers as Diana explained how an idea becomes a law and strongly encouraged them to be actively involved in the process.

“During my first term, I have strived to host events like these that bring our amazing seniors from the Merrimack Valley together,” said Diana, who represents portions of North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “I believe it is so important that we keep our older adults socially engaged, independent and active and I plan on hosting many more gatherings over the months and years to come.”

Joining Diana to welcome the seniors were State Senators Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) and Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), as well as State Representatives Marcos Devers (D-Lawrence) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence).

House Passes DiZoglio Bill Assisting Fire Fighters’ Fundraising Efforts for Muscular Dystrophy Association

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed legislation, sponsored by Diana, that assists fire fighters’ efforts to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Fire fighters are the MDA’s largest national sponsor and one of their most historic supporters of efforts to assist those suffering with neuromuscular disease. During the month of August, through Labor Day, fire fighters across the Commonwealth will be joining together to raise money for the cause.

“Every day, our fire fighters in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth dedicate themselves to helping people in peril,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “Their work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association marks another selfless act. With the passage of this legislation, our fire fighters will be able to ‘fill the boot’ as they raise money in this immensely important effort that demonstrates the true meaning of community involvement and public service.”

“Firefighters have been in the fight to cure Muscular Dystrophy for over 60 years and by partnering with the people in our communities, we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research and direct support to those in a personal fight,” said Edward A. Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM). “Our efforts have been hampered in recent years by legislation which indirectly stymied our efforts. That’s where Representative Diana DiZoglio took up the fight. Through her passionate leadership, she swiftly sponsored legislation to enable firefighters throughout the Commonwealth to be back on the streets ‘Filling the Boot’ for MDA. Diana has proven in her short time in the Legislature that she has what it takes to lead and effect positive change for the people of Massachusetts. We are lucky to have Diana advocating for firefighters on Beacon Hill.”

The MDA, which is based in Tucson, Arizona, is the world’s leading nonprofit health agency dedicated to researching treatments and cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases. It provides support and health care services to families across the globe and brings together communities from all walks of life for advocacy and fundraising.

“The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) are proud of our commitment to stand with the MDA in the fight against muscle disease,” said Kathleen Tighe, Boston area director for the MDA. “Since the tradition began in 1952 with Local 718 member George Graney answering the call of a neighbor in need in South Boston, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has contributed more than $450 million to MDA. These funds have supported MDA’s portfolio of health care services, clinic visits, summer camps and research for over one million Americans who live with muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular diseases.”

Fire fighters in Massachusetts have helped to fund breakthroughs such the discovery of the gene for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at Boston Children’s Hospital, a treatment for Pompe Disease, and numerous advances toward understanding the causes of and possible treatments for ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in addition to sponsoring local children’s attendance at a week-long, fully-adaptive MDA Summer Camp each July.

Legislature Passes Balanced FY’15 Budget

Diana joined her colleagues in the Legislature to pass a $36.5 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2015 focused on economic growth and increased government accountability and oversight.

The spending plan makes important investments in local aid, education, and human services including substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health care. Building on a responsible yet proactive approach to combatting the recession, the Legislature’s budget contains multiple measures to achieve sustainable economic growth and provide essential services that support the Commonwealth’s citizens.

Included in the final budget is amendment Diana sponsored which secured nearly $125,000 in funding to assist Career Resources, based in Haverhill, in its effort to assist local disabled veterans seeking job opportunities. Diana also successfully fought for the inclusion of a cost-saving amendment to assist homeless families in transitioning out of shelters.

“The FY’15 Budget strongly supports the Commonwealth’s most critical services and programs while also keeping a cautious eye on spending,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “I am particularly proud of our investments in education, substance abuse treatment and local aid. This is a budget that will greatly benefit citizens in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.”

This budget enhances the Commonwealth’s partnerships with cities and towns through numerous funding streams including $945.8 million to Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), a $25.5 million increase from FY14 and $4.4 billion for Chapter 70, a record funding level. The spending plan provides $257.5 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, ensuring full funding for the third consecutive year and $70.3 million for Regional School Transportation to reimburse municipalities at 90 percent, marking the highest rate in the program’s history.

In addition to educational investments through local aid, this year’s budget extends Massachusetts ongoing commitment to strengthening its educational systems to foster equality and provide residents with a competitive edge. The budget allocates $15 million to expand access to early education and funds a grant program at $9.1 million to support Early Head Start and Head Start programs. The budget also prioritizes higher education through investments in state universities, community colleges and the University of Massachusetts and includes $519 million for UMass which will enable a freeze in tuition and fees for the second year. In addition, the budget dedicates money to implement the STEM Starter Academy, an initiative created in the FY14 budget aimed at strengthening and expanding STEM programming in community colleges.

This year’s budget emphasizes the importance of enhanced fiscal predictability and sustainable investments, a practice that has raised Massachusetts bond rating to AA+, the highest in the state’s history. In an extension of this fiscal prudence, the spending plan makes the lowest draw from the Stabilization Fund in four years and contributes about $1.79 billion to Massachusetts’ unfunded pension liability to accelerate the timetable for full funding.

To heighten accountability and streamline operations, the budget establishes the Massachusetts Office of Information Technology (MOIT) to be administered by a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Commonwealth. The CIO will be responsible for supervising all IT services of state agencies and will review any proposed IT expenditure costing more than $200,000. The Massachusetts Health Connector Authority will be considered a state agency for the purposes of MOIT oversight.

This budget reflects the Legislature’s pledge to combat the alarming rise in mental health problems and substance addiction. It allocates almost $18 million in new spending to help combat substance addiction including $10 million for the Substance Abuse Services Trust Fund to provide substance abuse services to an additional 10,000 individuals in need of treatment. The spending plan also includes the following investments in substance abuse services and treatment:

• Creates a multi-year grant program at $5 million to fund mental health and substance abuse counselors within schools;
• Increases funding for specialty courts, including drug courts, to $3 million;
• Funds training and purchase of Nasal Narcan™;
• Creates a voluntary accreditation program for sober homes; and,
• Provides additional funding for the Prescription Monitoring Program to prevent the over-prescription of medications.

To improve quality of care for people suffering from mental illness, the budget provides $10 million for the expansion of community-based placements for at least 100 discharge-ready patients in the Department of Mental Health system, while maintaining sheltered workshops for those individuals who wish to remain in a residential setting. It also creates a Behavioral and Mental Health Special task Force to identify impediments to the delivery of comprehensive treatment.

The budget includes numerous additional health and human services provisions including $60 million in MassHealth investments and:

• $47.5 million for nursing homes to reduce the gap between Medicaid payments and uncompensated care;
• $35 million for Disproportionate Share Hospitals;
• $3 million in funds for employments programs for clients of the Department of Developmental Services;
• Requires the implementation of a hearing process for long-term facilities before there is any intent to close;

Building on the continued leadership in reforming and strengthening the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the budget provides $185.6 million to reduce social worker caseloads. It also includes initiatives to improve communications, IT and record keeping practices, and ensure initial medical screenings of all children entering DCF care within 72 hours. Background checks will now be required for all current and future foster parents. Individuals will be precluded from becoming foster parents if convicted of serious crimes, including those involving violence or sexual in nature.

The budget also:

• Provides $65 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and permits for unexpended FY14 funds to carry forward, allowing hundreds of new families to access safe and permanent housing;
• Expands the Veterans Motor Vehicle Excise Exemption to include leased cars;
• Establishes a memorial to honor Massachusetts Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Heroes; and,
• Reestablishes the Water Supply Protection Program to promote the safety and purity of the Commonwealth’s water supplies and the protection of watershed lands.

House Passes Super PAC Transparency Bill

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On the heels of the enactment of campaign finance report reform, sponsored by Diana, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed legislation that would require the timely disclosure of donors to Super PACs (Political Action Committees) in the Commonwealth.

Under House Bill 4197, An Act relative to campaign finance disclosure and transparency, donors to independent expenditure PACs, which are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, will be required to be disclosed to the public within seven days of running an ad. Additionally, the bill requires donors who provided more than $5,000 to a Super PAC be named in the ad itself.

Super PACs operate independently of a public office candidate’s official campaign. As donations to the committees are undisclosed, it is difficult for the public to figure out what interest groups are funding then. Critics of Super PACs have referred to these funds as “dark money.”

These new disclosure requirements will go into effect ahead of this fall’s elections.

“Over the past year, I have fiercely advocated for reforms to strengthen the Commonwealth’s campaign finance system, including those pertaining to Super PACs,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “I am truly delighted to see my colleagues in the Legislature share this commitment to increased transparency.”

Diana Embarks on Merrimack Valley Manufacturing Tour

Diana meets with employees at Jessica's Brick Oven in North Andover.

Diana meets with employees at Jessica’s Brick Oven in North Andover.

Diana, a member of the Legislature’s bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus, hosted several of her caucus colleagues on a Manufacturing Tour across the Merrimack Valley on Thursday, June 12.

Through the Manufacturing Tour, the Representative was able to introduce members of the caucus to four of the Merrimack Valley’s businesses, hear their concerns and see firsthand the things they are doing every day in the region. Diana was also joined by David A. Tibbetts, President of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council, and Peter Milano, Senior Regional Director at the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.

The tour came one day following the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ passage of an economic development package, which includes a sales tax holiday to take effect on August 16 and 17.

Among initiatives included in the package was $250,000 toward a competitive grant program, to be administered by the Small Business Association of New England, to avert layoffs at manufacturing companies through technical assistance and management consulting. The legislation also provides $500,000 for a study of Massachusetts Manufacturing Industries to identify barriers to growth, assess global market opportunities and develop a strategic roadmap for future industry growth.

On the heels of the Manufacturing Tour, Diana announced she would be co-sponsoring manufacturing legislation alongside fellow caucus member State Representative Jonathan D. Zlotnik (D-Gardner). The bill, An Act Relative to the Taxation of Inventory in Manufacturing, is designed to gradually eliminate the inventory tax manufacturers pay on raw materials over a period of four years.

During the tour, the Representative visited three businesses based in North Andover: PanelClaw, Inc., a photovoltaic mounting systems supplier for flat roof and ground mount applications; Jessica’s Brick Oven, a wholesale bakery famous for its artisan bread; and Bake’n Joy Foods, a manufacturer of high-quality food items for more than 70 years.

The Representative also made a stop in Lawrence, visiting Solectria Renewables, a leading PV inverter, string combiner and web-based monitoring company for solar projects.

“Local manufacturers are the backbone of our economy, in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth, and vital to ensuring job creation and growth,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “We in the Legislature must create a climate that fosters success and that is why I have signed on as a co-sponsor to common-sense legislation to ease the tax burden on manufacturers in the Commonwealth. I want to express my gratitude to these four businesses for giving me the opportunity to hear from them directly and will ensure their concerns are heard loud and clear on Beacon Hill.”

“Manufacturing companies like Solectria Renewables are vitally important for economic growth since we provide jobs across a broad spectrum of the Massachusetts workforce,” said Anita Rajan Worden, Chairman of Solectria Renewables. “We believe it is vitally important for members of our legislative body to take tours of facilities like Solectria’s to understand and appreciate the efforts we are making to create long lasting jobs in the Commonwealth. Through direct interaction with our companies, Rep. DiZoglio and the rest of the Manufacturing Caucus will likely make informed decisions that encourage more companies to manufacture in Massachusetts.”

“It was very helpful speaking with Representative DiZoglio about the issues important to us and to the Legislature,” said Nabil Boghos, President of Jessica’s Brick Oven. “She took a real interest in trying to help us and in the manufacturing industry as a whole.”

“The Merrimack Valley is home to manufacturers both small and large that face daily challenges such as finding a well-trained workforce and dealing with the high costs of doing business in Massachusetts,” said David A. Tibbetts, President of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council. “I commend Rep. DiZoglio for reaching out to the businesses in her district to see and hear first-hand about the challenges they face, and to commit to fighting for small businesses and manufacturers on Beacon Hill.”

“As a member of the newly formed Manufacturing Caucus, I applaud Representative DiZoglio for her leadership in initiating and conducting a manufacturing tour in Merrimack Valley,” said State Representative James Arciero (D-Westford). “This effort highlights the needs of the manufacturing sector of our economy and the potential for public-private partnerships to create additional jobs in the future.”

Greater Lawrence Technical School Awarded Grants for New Clean Energy Internship Program

Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS) is the recipient of $145,000 in funding recently granted under the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Learn and Earn program to prepare students for higher learning opportunities and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The program will train 24 GLTS students over the summer, and an additional 60 during the fall and spring, in the installation of solar electric panels for residential and commercial uses. Students will have the opportunity to train on ground-level, full-size practice roofs and install a fully functional solar election system as a final project.

“Greater Lawrence Technical School is a truly invaluable asset to our community and this training program will no doubt place GLTS interns on the path to future success,” said State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “I am proud to join my fellow Lawrence legislators in celebrating the announcement of this important funding.”

Civic Education Day at Wetherbee School

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Diana recently visited Lawrence’s Wetherbee School as the latest stop on her Civic Education Tour to engage and educate students across the Merrimack Valley.

The program, which Diana has brought to other schools in Lawrence, as well as North Andover, Methuen and Haverhill, explained the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government and, through interactive exercises, educated students about how to participate in our democratic process and what it means to be a citizen.

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 experience the Representative provided for our students was enlightening,” said Colleen Lennon, principal at Wetherbee. “They were truly engaged and now understand the importance of their voice and their vote.”

“Students need to know the adults in our community care about them and are truly invested in their education,” said Lisa Scott, an eighth grade ELA teacher at Wetherbee. “The Representative’s presence and willingness to share about the importance of civic education accomplished just that.”

“I want to be a lawyer when I grow up and listening to Representative DiZoglio was helpful because she is young and a woman I can connect with,” said student June Zhang.

“I learned that you can make people listen to you by getting involved and voting,” said student Jerry Pimentel.

“Representative DiZoglio made learning about government so much more simple and less complicated,” said student Kiahvette Guzman.

“I learned that at the age of 18 you can get a letter to serve on a jury,” said student Pedro Hernandez.

“In speaking with the amazing students at Wetherbee, I saw before me our next generation of leaders,” said Diana, who has sponsored legislation to establish a comprehensive student civic education program. “It is so critical to empower our youth with the knowledge of how and why to vote and my hope is this tour will help them to grasp civic involvement early on so they may actively participate in the democratic process as they reach adulthood.”

In many of today’s high schools, civic education courses are only offered toward the end of a student’s studies. On the most recent national civics assessment, conducted 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 how to do so.

“Our classrooms are all too often lacking a robust civic learning curriculum to teach students about what government does in our daily lives,” said Diana. “While this school year is nearing its end, I look forward to visiting additional schools in Lawrence and across the Merrimack Valley in the fall to continue educating our amazing students on how government works.”

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

Governor Signs Campaign Finance Bill Into Law

On the heels of its unanimous passage by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate, Gov. Deval Patrick has signed into law campaign finance reform legislation sponsored by Diana.

With the passage of House Bill 3760, An Act relative to strengthening campaign finance reporting requirements, prior campaign finance report law will extended to candidates for municipal office who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Previously, 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.

“Candidates in municipal elections who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance will now be held to the same standards as those running in state and county elections,” said Diana, who represents portions of North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “This measure was long overdue and I am grateful to my colleagues in both the House and Senate and the Governor for joining with me to pass this important legislation into law. This common sense law will bring more transparency to our government and a longtime loophole is now closed.”

Diana Celebrates Children’s Book Week with Tenney Grammar School

Children's Book Week

Diana joined Tenney Grammar School during its celebration of the 95th annual Children’s Book Week.

Children’s Book Week is a nationwide celebration designed to connect young readers with literature. Events are held at schools, bookstores, libraries and more.

“It was an honor and pleasure to join the amazing students and faculty at Tenney for Children’s Book Week,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “Events like these are so important as we work to ensure our youth grasp reading concepts and skills early on in their education.”

In addition to Tenney, Diana, who serves on the Joint Committee on Education in the State House, has been visiting schools across the Merrimack Valley on a Civic Education Tour since the fall. The tour is designed to educate students about democracy and what it means to be a citizen.

House Budget Includes Funding to Assist Merrimack Valley Veterans

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives has included in its FY’15 Budget an amendment, sponsored by Diana, for funding to assist the Career Resources Corporation (CRC) in its effort to assist disabled veterans seeking job opportunities.

Based in Haverhill, CRC is a non-profit organization that serves communities across the Merrimack Valley. For 40 years, it has been working to empower individuals with disabilities and other barriers to be self-sufficient and successful.

Its partnership with Valley Works Career Center, the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center and the City of Haverhill Veterans’ Services has provided local veterans with comprehensive support to seek and maintain employment.

“With the inclusion of this amendment, CRC has estimated it will be able to serve an additional 27 veterans in the Merrimack Valley who are seeking employment,” said Diana, who represents communities in North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) for his leadership in fighting with me for these funds and to Brad Howell and everyone else at CRC for the amazing work they are doing in the community every day.”

“Unemployment among veterans remains comparatively high to the overall population,” said State Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen). “Representative DiZoglio and CRC are to be commended for their efforts to bring this amendment forward.”