Massachusetts Senate Passes DiZoglio NDA Ban

The Massachusetts Senate has passed legislation, sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), to eliminate the use of taxpayer-funded nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) across state government.

NDAs are legal documents that require confidentiality to protect intellectual property or trade secrets. The recent #MeToo movement and incidents involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Steve Wynn, Larry Nassar and Roger Ailes, however, have shined a light on how these agreements have also been abused to hide the misdeeds of harassers and abusers by requiring the legal silencing of victims.

The executive branch has publicly refused to release information regarding the amount of tax dollars spent on NDAs through the Governor’s Office. Public records requests have been made to several state agencies and revealed numerous NDAs have been given to employees over the course of the last several years. However, there is no record of how much in taxpayer dollars was spent to fund them or why the agreements were executed.

While the Massachusetts Senate earlier this session passed a change, also sponsored by DiZoglio, to its Senate Rules banning the use of NDAs in its chamber, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, known to have given out at least 33 NDAs in recent years, has not adopted such reform and continues to support the use of these taxpayer-funded hush agreements.

Six states to date, including California, Tennessee and Washington, have outright banned NDAs as a condition of employment for all employees, public or private. Recently, Gretchen Carlson, the woman at the center of the #metoo movement known for taking down Fox News titan Roger Ailes, joined Senator DiZoglio and others for a rally at the State House to urge the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and members of the legislature to support NDA reforms by passing DiZoglio’s legislation out of committee.

The bill was subsequently sent to study but DiZoglio informed members of the legislature that she still planned to bring the issue up for debate on the Senate floor as an amendment to the Senate’s comprehensive economic development legislation.

“We are with you, @DianaDiZoglio,” said Carlson in a recent Tweet. “Thank you for leading the way in Mass to unmuzzle women forced to sign NDAs and using taxpayer’s dollars to continue the unjust practice!”

“The practice of using taxpayer funded hush agreements to silence employees and victims of abuse across our state government is a shameful one, and one that must be ended – not only to help those who have already been silenced but also to protect potential future victims from abusers who could be hiding in plain sight,” said DiZoglio. “NDAs don’t just silence victims – they perpetuate harassment and outright assault and place others at risk by keeping these offenses secret. In passing this legislation with a 38-1 margin, the Senate took a clear position on the need to ban this practice in the public sector. I am calling on the Speaker and the Governor to open their hearts to the plight of victims and employees who are asking for nothing more than to be able to speak their truth about potential abuse. We can’t end the silence by perpetuating the silence.”

Gov. Baker Signs DiZoglio Bill Allowing To-Go Mixed Drinks into Law

Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott) has signed into law legislation filed by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) that will allow mixed alcoholic drinks to be sold with takeout and delivery orders in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 emergency.

Senate Bill 2812, An Act to expand take-out/delivery options in response to COVID-19, will make Massachusetts the latest state to permit the sale of mixed drinks with takeout and delivery. More than 34 other states, including Maine and Rhode Island, have already adopted such measures.

Earlier this year, beer and wine sales were permitted to be sold with takeout and delivery orders but, much to the frustration of local restaurants, excluded were mixed drinks.

“While many mom and pop establishments have been able to slowly reopen in recent weeks, they still face significant challenges in their efforts to retain employees and pay their bills,” said DiZoglio. “According to our local, family owned and operated restaurants, these measures could help them generate thousands of dollars a month and would greatly assist them in paying utility bills and rent. I am grateful to my colleagues in the legislature for their support and continued advocacy on the issue and to Governor Baker for signing it into law.”

State Funding Secured for Methuen Parks and Recreation Improvements

Included in a bond bill recently passed by the Massachusetts Senate is an amendment, sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $230,000 toward parks and recreation improvements in the City of Methuen.

Specifically, the secured funds may be used toward expenses associated with upgrades to playground equipment at Veterans Park and Forest Lake, the installation of fitness trails in city parks, and other park and open space improvements across the City of Methuen.

“With COVID-19 continuing to prevent community members from congregating indoors, providing well-maintained open spaces for Methuen residents is more crucial than ever,” said DiZoglio. “During and beyond this emergency, this investment will help to ensure all generations, young and old, have vibrant and safe outdoor environments to enjoy. While the ultimate release of these funds depends on the approval of the Governor’s administration, securing them in the Senate is a necessary and important step in process. We are hopeful the administration will see the value in the city’s endeavors to invest in our parks and open spaces at a time when they are especially needed.”

“We would like to thank Senator DiZoglio for securing a $230,000 bond for parks and recreation improvements for the City of Methuen,” said Methuen Mayor Neil Perry. “With coronavirus still preventing people from congregating freely in enclosed spaces, providing safe and well-maintained open spaces for our residents is more important than ever before. We appreciate Senator DiZoglio’s continued advocacy for Methuen.”

State Funding Secured for Amesbury Public Schools IT Upgrades

Included in a bond bill recently passed by the Massachusetts Senate is an amendment, sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), for $270,000 toward Amesbury Public Schools technology and infrastructure upgrades.

The secured funds may be allocated toward expenses associated with the purchase of Chromebooks and Chromecarts or comparable hardware, instructional software, online tools, books and streaming services, repairs to existing technology facilities, upgrades to communications and security systems, and the purchase of other education and classroom supplies and resources.

“The COVID-19 emergency has highlighted the importance of our information technology infrastructure, including in our public schools, where equitable access to education has proved challenging in light of the obstacles exacerbated by the pandemic,” said DiZoglio. “Amesbury Public Schools’ students and faculty would greatly benefit from these necessary upgrades to services they rely on. While the ultimate release these funds will be decided by the Governor and his administration, the Senate’s passage of these funds completes a necessary and important step in the process.”

“I am hopeful that the release of funds for this bond authorization will be expedited,” said Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove. “Between this authorization and the $50,000 school safety grant we’ve already received, we will be able to fund many of the technology requests that our schools have been making for years. These requests, which would have been nice to have before the COVID-19 outbreak, have become critical to the success of our schools. The pandemic has truly shown us how necessary these improvements are for our connectivity between schools and families, and to ensure that our students are receiving the best education possible whether they are physically in our buildings or not.”