Haverhill’s Hartell Johnson Honored at State House

Hartell Johnson 2

In honor of Black History Month and the Commonwealth’s commemoration of the work of prominent African Americans in Massachusetts, state legislators recently nominated local advocates, community leaders and business members for recognition during Black Excellence on the Hill Day.

Hartell Johnson of Haverhill was nominated by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) for the occasion, in honor of her work in the Merrimack Valley.

A former vice president and current member of the Greater Haverhill League of Women Voters, Johnson has served on the City of Haverhill Cultural Council and Community Affairs Advisory Boards and, for more than a decade, has worked as a business analyst at Fresenius Medical Care. She was a candidate for Haverhill City Council in 2017 and is on the board of directors at Haverhill’s Zinnia Montessori School.

“Hartell embodies so much of what makes the Merrimack Valley and its communities great,” said DiZoglio. “An unwavering advocate for stronger educational opportunities for students, improved economic development and enhancing cultural affairs, she is a true force for positive change in the City of Haverhill.”

Massachusetts Senate Passes Next Generation Climate Policy

The Massachusetts State Senate has passed comprehensive legislation strengthening the state’s approach to protecting the environment.

The legislative package, passed by the Senate on January 30, sets a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions. To achieve this, it requires the state to hit near-term limits in 2025, 2030, and every five years thereafter; set sub-limits for transportation, buildings, solid waste, natural gas distribution, and other major sectors; and make clear implementation plans.

Under the legislation, cities and towns will be able to adopt a net zero stretch energy code. The bill allows the state to support communities that choose on their own to move away from fossil fuels as the source of heating for new buildings. The state will promulgate a net zero energy code, so that municipalities have the option available if they want to use it.

The bill directs the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set emissions reduction goals for each three-year plan utilities formulate for the MassSave program. It requires the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), at the conclusion of each three-year plan, to certify how much the plan actually contributed to meeting the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emission limits.

The legislation also directs the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040, to reduce transportation-related emissions in city neighborhoods.

Under the bill, Massachusetts appliance standards are updated to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances, helping to conserve energy and save consumers and businesses money.

“With the passage of this legislation, we have taken long overdue action to reduce emissions and develop a plan for a healthier, more sustainable future in the Merrimack Valley and across Massachusetts,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “Thank you to Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and Senate Chair of the Utilities & Energy Committee Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) for their leadership in bolstering the Commonwealth’s position as an ideal state wherein to build a strong clean energy economy.”

Newburyport’s Mike Sullivan Honored at State House

Mike Sullivan

Newburyport resident Mike Sullivan was recently honored at the Massachusetts State House for his 25-year tenure as director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF).

Sullivan, who in December retired from OCPF, served as director under six governors, seven Senate presidents and four House speakers and is the only director in OCPF history to be reappointed to the position. He led the office’s transformation from a paper to nearly all-electronic agency and twice served as president of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws.

Prior to his service at OCPF, Sullivan served as city clerk in Newburyport.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) presented a Senate resolution in honor of Sullivan’s accomplishments, co-sponsored by legislators from across the Commonwealth.

“Over his 25 years at OCPF, Mike was always committed to the utmost accountability in Massachusetts’ public elections,” said DiZoglio. “His commitment to transparency resulted in greater accuracy and efficiency in government operations – goals we at the state level should be striving for daily. Mike will be missed on Beacon Hill but I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky of Lift Our Voices Join Senator DiZoglio at State House in Call for Action on Bill Banning NDAs

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will be joined by journalist, author and empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson and political strategist Julie Roginsky, both of the advocacy group Lift Our Voices, for a State House press conference on Monday, January 27, regarding the continued use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of harassment, discrimination and assault in state government and across Massachusetts.

Lift Our Voices was founded by Carlson, Julie Roginsky and Diana Falzone in an effort to end the practice of mandatory NDAs, confidentiality provisions and forced arbitration clauses that seek to silence workers who want to speak publicly about toxic workplace conditions. Carlson and Roginsky both sued former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, while Falzone sued Fox News for gender discrimination.

“It is beyond past time that the abuse of non-disclosure agreements come to an end in the Commonwealth,” said DiZoglio. “I am beyond grateful to be joined by Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky, who have tirelessly worked to raise awareness around these issues.”

Also speaking at the press conference will be attorney Mitchell Garabedian and State Representative Alyson Sullivan (R-Abington).

The event is open to the public.

WHO: State Senator Diana DiZoglio, Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky of Lift Our Voices, attorney Mitchell Garabedian and State Representative Alyson Sullivan

WHAT: News conference and individual interview opportunities

WHEN: 1pm; January 27, 2020

WHERE: Massachusetts State House, Nurses Hall

DiZoglio, MVPC Announce Scope of Work for Merrimack River District Commission

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission have announced the finalization of a scope of work for the Merrimack River District Commission (MRDC).

The MRDC, which will be funded through monies secured by DiZoglio through the Fiscal Year 2020 State Budget, is an inclusive commission of local stakeholders — from sewage management professionals to environmentalists to elected officials — as well as representatives from state agencies, charged with assessing the current health of the Merrimack River and mapping out strategies to ensure the health and safety of the Merrimack moving forward.

The Commission’s scope of work, prepared by the Andover-based environmental engineering and consulting firm Brown and Caldwell, outlines the development of a framework for decision-making and funding priorities associated with the MRDC, including a unified vision and statement of regional goals. The framework will consolidate the pertinent information, encourage communication and support regional objectives for stakeholders along the Merrimack.

While there have been studies of the Merrimack River in recent decades, including reports from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, there is sentiment among stakeholders that such data is difficult to access, focused on very specific issues and not helpful toward making informed decisions regarding future improvements to the river.

“This scope of work is essential to moving the commission forward, as we bring together experts from all along the Merrimack to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs),” said DiZoglio. “The group has already met a couple of times to hear from experts and discuss strategy. Due to a lag time in receiving funds that were appropriated to them during the budget process, however, it has lacked the structure needed to ensure results are produced from those discussions. Now that the funds have been allocated, they can get into the meat and potatoes of strategic planning. This is a hugely important step needed to set both short and long-term goals for keeping our river clean, healthy, safe and beautiful.”

Included in the scope of work are six specific tasks toward establishing the MRDC framework, with an estimated completion of four to six months in total:

• A needs assessment, compiling all relevant studies on the Merrimack River from the past two decades and identifying any data gaps, data quality inconsistences and objectives not addressed, among other issues. At this stage, all regulatory requirements for communities and utilities along the river will also be compiled.

• The establishment of guidelines for a consolidated data clearinghouse for the Merrimack River, with data types including river uses, water quality data and pollution source data, among others. Guidelines will also be established for a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), a document designed to govern the field, laboratory and procedures for ongoing and future data collection.

• The formation of a steering committee and technical advisory group to help ensure the right data is being developed and applied to support regional decisions and to help prioritize and advocate for funding based on identified needs. Pertinent stakeholders, including environmental groups, elected officials, public health officials and other experts will have roles in these groups.

• The facilitating of workshops to help craft the framework, articulating consensus goals for the Merrimack River and determining the roles and responsibilities of participating stakeholders moving forward.

• Developing the framework with four principal goals in mind: consistent integration of regional priorities, unified advocacy for funding and research, data-driven decisions, and a focus on uses of the Merrimack River.

• The presentation of the framework.

“A clean, healthy Merrimack River is vital to me both professionally and personally,” said Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex Community College. “Nearly 700,000 people live in the cities and towns along its banks in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including more than 25,000 NECC alumni, all contributing to the region’s workforce and economy – and I’m a recreational kayaker who enjoys paddling along the beautiful river shoreline. I appreciate Senator DiZoglio’s championing of this effort, and am excited about the work of this commission, bringing together partners in both states to look at the best scientific research available and create strategies to clean up and preserve this incredible natural resource for future generations.”

“The Merrimack River is integral to the regional economy and overall welfare of many of our Merrimack Valley communities, including providing drinking water for the cities of Methuen and Lawrence,” said Jennifer Hughes, environmental program manager at the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. “MVPC looks forward to assisting Senator DiZoglio and the District Commission in their efforts to make informed decisions on the best investments to sustain the Merrimack’s economic and environmental health.”

“The Merrimack River has long been a reliable resource in New England, providing power, drinking water, wastewater assimilation, recreational opportunities, warm and cold water aquatic habitat, shell-fishing, and aesthetic beauty to our region,” said Kirk Westphal, water resources leader at Brown and Caldwell. “In recent decades, it has been the stage for economic revitalization of the communities that line its shores. Many studies have been undertaken to better understand specific aspects of the river, but until now the information has been decentralized, and priorities for the basin have not always been regionally coordinated. The work that Senator DiZoglio and the Commission have enabled will aim to provide a unifying framework for knowing and caring for the river and the communities it serves.”

As the MRDC moves forward, it will be alongside another project of DiZoglio’s and the MVPC’s regarding a pilot program, funded through $100,000 secured by the senator in the FY20 Budget, 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.

DiZoglio Welcomes Salisbury Girl Scouts to the State House

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

The troop had the opportunity to tour the State House and meet with the Senator, as well as State Representative Jim Kelcourse (R-Amesbury). DiZoglio brought the scouts into the Senate Chamber, where they sat in the seats of legislators, as the Senator explained how ideas become laws. The troop then engaged in a debate, moderated by DiZoglio, over a piece of legislation.

“This is our next generation of leaders, so it is important that we encourage them to be actively involved in the democratic process early on,” said DiZoglio. “The girls were given the chance to experience what a day in the life of a legislator looks like and engaged in a discussion on a real-life bill that impacts citizens of the Merrimack Valley. We had a blast!”

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.