DiZoglio Bill Would Hold Gas Companies Accountable

In response to last year’s devastating gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, which destroyed homes and buildings in communities across North Andover, Lawrence and Andover, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has sponsored legislation designed to both hold gas companies accountable and prevent future incidents.

Senate Bill 1952, An Act relative to gas leaks and infrastructure, increases the reporting requirements of gas companies when they learn of gas leaks to local fire and law enforcement agencies and to make information about gas leaks public, both on the gas company’s and the Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) websites.

The legislation, which was recently heard before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, mandates that all three entities – the gas company, local law enforcement and the local fire department – record the location of the leak and any mitigation done to resolve the issue. The bill also requires that gas companies remain responsible for any significant project on a public way and authorizes financial penalties for failure to comply with any provision.

Furthermore, the legislation requires an annual review by DPU pertaining to certified pipeline inspectors to ensure that an adequate number of certified inspectors are engaged in pipeline inspection across the Commonwealth.

“Last fall’s Columbia Gas explosions turned my constituents’ lives upside down, as restoration of service not only proved slow but communication to those affected was unreliable,” said DiZoglio. “With lackluster assistance from Columbia, residents turned to social media for help and called daily for assistance from my office as they went from adjuster to adjuster getting less than they were promised – and far less than they deserved. As those impacted continue to recover more than one year since the explosions, and much more recently since the September gas leak in the City of Lawrence, this bill will provide key tools in our efforts to avert future disasters and ensure gas companies are held responsible for their actions.”

In addition to this legislation, DiZoglio is also the sponsor of Senate Bill 1953, An Act creating a Department of Utilities Disaster Relief Fund, and Senate Bill 1954, An Act relative to transparency, accountability, and fairness impacting utility rates, which together create a gas disaster relief fund to help ensure ratepayers don’t bear the brunt of costs associated with such an event.

Senate Passes DiZoglio Campaign Finance Reform Bill

The Massachusetts State Senate has passed legislation sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) to increase transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s public elections.

Up to this point, the legislature and some mayoral candidates have been exempt from the law that requires statewide, county and many other municipal candidates use the depository reporting system.

The bill, An Act relative to campaign finance, seeks to remedy this disparity by requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates in Massachusetts begin participating in the system.

The legislation assists the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) to identify, early on, discrepancies between a candidate’s public disclosure of campaign finance activity and their bank accounting records.

The depository reporting system increases accountability by requiring the candidate or committee file a report that discloses all campaign finance activity, once a month, alongside their financial institution. Since depository finance reports are filed 12 times per year under this bill, transparency in campaign finance activity is significantly increased when compared with the current, outdated campaign finance requirements for legislative and certain mayoral candidates. Reports under the non-depository system are filed only two or three times a year.

This legislation will assist OCPF to more promptly address issues associated with data entry errors, missed deposits, balance issues and uncashed checks. The change will also make it easier to see how much money a candidate is raising and spending during the course of the entire election cycle.

“Nearly all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor’s Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, have participated in this depository reporting system – with the exception of some mayoral and all legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This landmark legislation enhances transparency and accountability in our campaign finance law by requiring that bank statements are sent to OCPF and that we disclose our sources of campaign contributions and expenditures much more often for the public to see.”

Methuen’s New England Die Cutting Recognized at State House

David and Kimberly Abare, vice president and president of Methuen’s New England Die Cutting

David and Kimberly Abare, vice president and president of Methuen’s New England Die Cutting

The Methuen-based New England Die Cutting was recently recognized at the Massachusetts State House as part of the 4th Annual Manufacturing Month Award Ceremony, honoring manufacturers across the Commonwealth.

For the past 30 years, New England Die Cutting has offered solutions through die-cutting, laser-cutting, molding, fabrication/assembly, and waterjet cutting. The company has evolved from a garage with a few manual die-cutting machines to a 70,000 square foot facility facilitating solutions through high quality products such as EMI/RFI absorbers, insulators, thermal pads, tapes, gaskets, and epoxy preforms.

New England Die Cutting is an SBA, woman-owned business that employs over 55 people. The company was nominated for the Manufacturing Day honor by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), a member of the legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus.

“Local manufacturers like New England Die Cutting are the backbone of our economy, in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth, and essential to ensuring job creation and growth,” said DiZoglio. “I was honored to nominate this great company, an exceptional example of American ingenuity that provides jobs across a wide spectrum of the Massachusetts workforce, for this recognition.”

DiZoglio Fighting to Reinstate Merrimack River District Commission

In the Fiscal Year 2020 Senate Budget, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) passed legislation to create a Merrimack River District Commission, an inclusive commission of local stakeholders — from sewage management professionals to environmentalists to elected officials — as well as representatives from state agencies, to assess the current health of the Merrimack and to map out strategies to ensure the health and safety of the river going forward.

Though unanimously passed by the Senate, language to establish the Commission was eliminated after budget negotiations began with the House on the final Conference Committee Report – despite the inclusion in the final report of $50,000 to fund it.

Now, DiZoglio, alongside fellow senators from the Merrimack Valley, is fighting to have the Commission reinstated. She, alongside State Senators Edward J. Kennedy (D-Lowell), Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover), Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and James B. Eldridge (D-Acton), penned a joint letter to State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, requesting that the legislation be moved to the Senate floor for consideration as soon as possible.

“This commission has been a priority of mine since the start of this legislative session, as I work to bring together stakeholders from all along the Merrimack to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs),” said DiZoglio. “We have never convened a diverse group of experts from various sectors to work together, agree on the basic facts, and advise the legislature on how to proceed to restore our beloved river so that it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

In June, DiZoglio, alongside the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, hosted a kick-off of the Merrimack River District Commission that was attended by more than 50 local stakeholders, environmentalists and experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers.

“While this group will be funded, it is imperative that the Commission be established at the state level, as this will formalize the process, requiring that a report be delivered back to the legislature on the Commission’s findings regarding the health of the Merrimack,” said DiZoglio. “This report will help our region identify both short- and long-term solutions.”

“Recent reports have illustrated in stark terms that combined sewer overflows caused by outdated infrastructure pose a pervasive and reoccurring threat to the health of the Merrimack River,” said Kennedy. “The establishment of a Merrimack River District Commission would bring together stakeholders in communities that the river flows through to determine solutions to this issue and to preserve this vital natural resource into the future.”

“I applaud Senator DiZoglio for making the Commission a top priority, and I share her desire to see it reinstated,” said Finegold. “Since taking office in January, I’ve heard from dozens of constituents who are concerned about the river’s health and the impact it has on our community. We need the Commission so that we can bring all the organizations, advocates, and experts together and make the best decisions for the Merrimack River in the years to come.”

“The discharge of pollution is a serious concern made even more so when it is dumped directly into one of New England’s largest public drinking water sources – the Merrimack,” said Tarr. “This commission could bring key stakeholders and resources together to effectively mitigate the impacts from exposure to contaminants, and improve our economy and quality of life.”

While the establishment of the Commission was not included in the final Conference Committee Report, the final budget did include an amendment sponsored by DiZoglio for $100,000 toward a pilot program to notify swimmers and boaters of CSOs in the Merrimack. The program will utilize physical and virtual means to notify residents of potential CSO concerns, in the form of flagging and through a mobile app and website alerts.

Jackie Marte Named 2019 Unsung Heroine

Jackie Marte 2

Jackie Marte has been named one of 2019’s “Unsung Heroines” by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, in honor of her non-profit work across the Merrimack Valley.

Marte was recently honored at a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, recognizing extraordinary women from across the Commonwealth. She was nominated for the recognition by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

“As co-founder of the non-profit Suenos Basketball, Jackie has helped countless children in the Merrimack Valley develop the skills needed to succeed both in and out of the classroom,” said DiZoglio. “Moreover, as a member of the Merrimack Valley Project, a group of regional faith, labor and community leaders, Jackie has done extraordinary work taking action on economic and social justice issues and been dedicated to helping those battling addiction in this opioid epidemic.”

“It is a blessing and honor to be nominated as an Unsung Heroine by Senator DiZoglio,” said Marte. “She is a tireless leader and advocate for her community.”

DiZoglio Secures Funding for Merrimack River District Commission, CSO Pre-Notification

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has secured through the FY20 Senate Budget funding toward several initiatives around addressing the health of the Merrimack River.

Among the amendments adopted into the budget are two pertaining to a Merrimack River District Commission – one amendment toward its creation and a second amendment of $50,000 funding the commission.

This commission will ultimately bring together a variety of stakeholders along the river — from environmentalists to elected officials — to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The commission will advise on next steps, developing a plan to clean and maintain the river moving forward.

“The Merrimack River is one of the single biggest economic and cultural drivers of our region,” said DiZoglio. “By creating and funding this commission, we are working to preserve this natural treasure that has given so much to our state — and to ensure that it remains a clean, safe piece of our region for generations to come.”

Additionally, DiZoglio secured $100,000 toward a pilot program to create and implement a pre-notification alert system for CSOs in the Merrimack River. The program will utilize physical and virtual means to notify residents of potential CSO concerns, in the form of flagging and through a mobile app and website alerts.

“We live along a river that has a long, proud industrial history, but many of the cities that line the Merrimack have an aging water infrastructure that puts the river at risk of combined sewer overflow,” said DiZoglio. “This funding will greatly help in the development of a flagging system that will inform the public of potential hazards and ensure they are able to enjoy what the Merrimack has to offer without fear of illness from pollution.”

“The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission is excited to serve as the host of the Merrimack River District Commission, as it is squarely within our mission to facilitate this important conversation regarding the current and future health of our region’s most important natural resource, the Merrimack River,” said Karen Sawyer Conard, executive director of the MVPC. “We look forward to coordinating the effort of the District Commission and its key stakeholders moving forward.”

“I believe that the river communities in the Merrimack Valley have come together to strongly support these initiatives,” said Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday. “While we work to address the infrastructure needs in our cities, it is so important that we notify swimmers and boaters using the river of CSOs.”

Star Sprinter Honored for Successful Sophomore Year at Central Catholic

Katharine Duren

Katharine Duren, a sophomore hurdler on the Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, was recently recognized by the Massachusetts State Senate for her stunning successes over the last two years.

A Haverhill resident, Duren won the Merrimack Valley Conference championship in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.57 seconds on Saturday, May 18, breaking the meet and school records.

This winter, Duren won the Division II indoor state championship in the 55-meter hurdles, setting a regional and school record of 8.35 seconds on February 15, a week after she broke the previous school record at the Merrimack Valley Conference indoor championship with a time of 8.43 seconds en route to receiving All-Conference honors.

“Katharine is one of the brightest athletic stars in the Merrimack Valley,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who invited Duren to the State House for a celebration in her honor. “Her impressive dedication has served her and her fellow Raiders well and it is my hope that she continues her success collegiately at the highest level in the coming years.”

Asked of how she felt earning a standing ovation in the Senate Chamber after receiving an official citation in honor of her accomplishments, Duren said it was a great experience to be there with her parents David and Khristine, her sister Janessa and her grandfather, David Sr.

“It was an honor to be there today, representing my school,” said Duren. “It was really fun and I especially enjoyed being there with my family. They’re my biggest supporters.”

DiZoglio Pushes for Campaign Finance Reform on Beacon Hill

Among the legislation filed in this session by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is a bill to increase transparency in the Commonwealth’s public elections.

Senate Bill 399, An Act enhancing disclosure of campaign finance activity by expanding the depository reporting system to include legislative candidates, requires legislative candidates in Massachusetts participate in a depository reporting system.

The benefit is designed to be twofold – the legislation allows for any disparity to be identified by the Commonwealth’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) early on so that candidates can review records more immediately to clear the issue and it allows for more transparency in government.

Common problems encountered with the current non-depository system include missed deposits, data entry errors, balance issues and uncashed checks – issues that would be remedied through a depository system. Where non-depository reports are filed merely two or three times per year, depository reports are filed twice monthly by the candidate’s bank, an independent third party.

Recently, DiZoglio testified before a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Election Laws in favor of the legislation.

“Virtually all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor’s Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, participate in this depository reporting system today – except for legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This bill enhances government transparency, assuring the public that the information they review on the OCPF website is accurate, and makes it easier for OCPF to do its job by having the ability to promptly address campaign finance reporting issues. In the event of a problem that needs to be addressed, a notification would come quickly, as opposed to several months down the line.”

“Expanding the depository system to include more candidates makes good sense,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “It will increase the accuracy and completeness of campaign finance information and that is a win for voters and candidates alike.”

“Many legislative candidates have contacted OCPF over the years to self-report that their balances do not reconcile to their actual bank balances, usually due to errors that have snowballed over several years,” said Michael J. Sullivan, director of OCPF, in testimony delivered to the committee. “Some of these issues include errors when entering credit card contributions, bounced checks, not entering all expenditures that clear the account, previously reported expenditures that never clear the account, and not accurately carrying the ending balance from the last report as the beginning balance for the next report. Most of this won’t happen if legislative candidates are in the depository system. If this bill passes, OCPF looks forward to working closely with all House and Senate candidates to transition from the non-depository system to the depository system.”

Newburyport Manufacturer Receives Workforce Training Grant

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has awarded a $48,000 grant through its Workforce Training Fund Program to MacDiarmid Machine.

The Executive Office anticipates the grant, which will be used to train 13 employees, will also help MacDiarmid add five new jobs by next year at its 6,000-square foot facility at 7 Perry Way.

For more than 30 years, MacDiarmid has provided precision state-of-the-art machining and assembling components from prototype through production for critical applications in a variety of metals and plastics for markets, including commercial and military robotics, alternative energy, medical, and biotech.

“Continued state investment through programs like the Workforce Training Fund help Merrimack Valley businesses like MacDiarmid prosper and grow, enhancing the economy of our region by putting people to work and giving them the tools to advance in their careers,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen.

Funded by Massachusetts employers via contributions made to unemployment insurance, the Workforce Training Fund helps companies improve productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to invest in the Massachusetts workforce.

In 2018, 926 Massachusetts employers were approved for more than $21 million in WTFP grants, which were used to train 15,278 workers statewide. In FY2018, companies that completed grants added jobs at an almost 12 percent rate, more than three times the state average.

DiZoglio Hosts Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day

Park 2019 6

State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, recently hosted advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth at the State House for the fifth annual meeting of the state legislature’s Parkinson’s Disease Caucus.

DiZoglio, who serves as co-chair of the caucus alongside State Representative John C. Velis, D-Westfield, provided legislators an opportunity to learn more about Parkinson’s and consider legislative steps to address the neurological disease, which affects an estimated one million Americans and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States.

It is estimated that 60,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S. with Parkinson’s and its prevalence is expected to more than double by the year 2040. The exact cause of the disease, which is chronic and progressive, with no treatment to slow or halt its progression, remains unknown.

Joining the Representative for the caucus meeting were the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).

During the caucus, DiZoglio presented a Senate resolution, co-sponsored by legislators from across the Commonwealth, proclaiming April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in Massachusetts.

“Greater research, education and community support services are needed to find more effective treatments and to provide access to quality care to those with Parkinson’s,” said DiZoglio. “I am honored to chair this important caucus and committed to continue raising awareness around the disease with advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth. As always, thank you to North Andover’s Charles Brown of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease for again helping to organize this important event.”

DiZoglio officially created and launched the Parkinson’s Disease Caucus in November 2015.

“It is hard to believe this is our fifth year of holding this event,” said Charles Brown, North Andover resident and public policy and advocacy volunteer with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “This would not be possible without the support that we have received from both Senator DiZoglio and her chief of staff Andrew Carden. They both have been true supporters of raising awareness around Parkinson’s.”

“It’s important that we get to speak to legislators on a daily basis to help people who are living with Parkinson’s Disease,” said Chad Moir, owner of DopaFit, a Parkinson’s management center based in Southampton.

Moir’s advocacy began when his mother passed away from the disease, which affects between 18,000 and 21,000 people in Massachusetts.

“She inspires me, along with all of the inspiring people I meet every day who fight this disease,” he said. “It was great to see a strong turnout today and to see all of the senators and representatives in attendance. I thank them for their continued efforts.”

Attendees of the caucus heard from several residents from across Massachusetts living with Parkinson’s. They noted transportation and building access as two of their greatest daily challenges living with the disease.

One attendee, Greg Heath, a former Westfield firefighter who has battled Parkinson’s for seven years, spoke on behalf of a bill filed by Rep. Velis that would provide accidental disability benefits to firefighters who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

In addition to Senator DiZoglio and Representative Velis, other legislators in attendance at Thursday’s event included Reps. William Galvin, D-Canton, Joseph McGonagle, D-Everett, Ruth Balser, D-Newton and Patrick Kearney, D-Scituate, as well as Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton.

Galvin, who sponsored a House resolution naming April Parkinson’s Awareness Month at the request of his constituent Dan Harvey, said he has become more aware of the disease in the five years that he’s known Harvey and is impressed with the efforts of advocates like those in attendance.

McGonagle, whose late mother also fought a courageous battle with Parkinson’s, vowed to continue supporting Parkinson’s-related legislation.

“Since I came into the house, I told Diana I would be a big advocate for her because of my own personal experiences,” said McGonagle. “Know that I will help carry the torch in the House of Representatives.”

Regarding the firefighter bill, Velis said it is “absolutely critical” that the Commonwealth treat a Parkinson’s diagnosis the same as a career-ending injury suffered by a firefighter in the line of duty.

“On a daily basis, firefighters put their lives at risk to keep the public safe,” said Velis. “We must err on the side of doing the right thing when it comes to providing our firefighters with the support they need should they be diagnosed with this disease.”