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DiZoglio NDA Reform Bill Gets Boost
Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky, Act on Mass Testify at Hearing

Posted on September 14, 2021

(BOSTON) – State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is renewing her call for policy changes in Massachusetts around the use and abuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

On September 14, DiZoglio testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on legislation she has sponsored, Senate Bill 2047, An Act prohibiting taxpayer-funded nondisclosure agreements.

The bill prohibits NDAs as a condition of employment or in a settlement agreement between a governmental entity or school and employee or student. It includes a provision that shields the claimant's identity at the request of the claimant.

Lending their support for the bill during the hearing were journalist, author and empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson and political strategist Julie Roginsky, both of the advocacy group Lift Our Voices.

Lift Our Voices was founded by Carlson, 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.

Also testifying on the legislation was Act on Mass, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting transparency at the Massachusetts State House.

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.

These agreements have also been utilized in state and local governments, using taxpayer dollars, often in cases of harassment and discrimination. Massachusetts’ 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.

“It is sorely overdue that we make meaningful policy changes here in Massachusetts, 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. “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. I am deeply grateful to Lift Our Voices and Act on Mass for their support of this legislation and tireless efforts around reforming outdated NDA laws across the country.”

“Non-disclosure agreements prevent transparency, and it is important that governmental agencies lead the way in ensuring employees have the ability to inform others about toxic workplace experiences,” said Carlson. “Lift Our Voices seeks to eliminate non-disclosure agreements and forced arbitration that disempower survivors and enable predatory work environments. This legislation advances much needed protections in the workplace and the women in Massachusetts who have been calling for this change."

"Taxpayers have a right to know when elected officials are spending their money to settle sexual harassment and other toxic workplace cases,” said Roginsky. “Government in Massachusetts and across the country should lead by example by exempting all state employees from non-disclosure agreements that cover up workplace abuse. We are grateful to Senator DiZoglio for her sponsorship of Senate Bill 2047, which would end non-disclosure agreements in agencies funded by Massachusetts taxpayers."

"Our nation is experiencing a long-overdue reckoning about treatment of workers in the workplace, particularly sexual harassment and assault of women,” said Erin Leahy, executive director of Act on Mass. “This vital cultural shift must not stop at the State House doors. We at Act on Mass are fighting to build a State House that embodies our values of openness, democracy and equity. Eliminating the use of taxpayer dollars to silence those who have been harassed and abused at the hands of the state could not fit more squarely into that vision. We are proud to support this bill and are honored to work alongside its sponsors to ensure it becomes law."

 
 

Statement from State Senator Diana DiZoglio on Need for NDA Reforms in Massachusetts

Posted on August 11, 2021

“I am calling on the Speaker and Governor Baker to pass NDA reforms – as the Senate has done multiple times – to help end the silence regarding sexual harassment across state government. The allegations made against Governor Andrew Cuomo and his resignation serve as reminder of the sexual harassment that all too often permeates in our own state government. It is sorely overdue that we make meaningful policy changes here in Massachusetts, 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. The practice of using taxpayer-funded non-disclosure agreements to silence employees and victims of abuse across our state government is a shameful one, and one that must be ended. Governor Cuomo’s actions should encourage Beacon Hill to hold up a mirror regarding its own complicit inaction on behalf of survivors. Powerful politicians should not be able to continue to silence sexual harassment survivors in Massachusetts.”

DiZoglio, Uyterhoeven Call for State House Staff Supports

Posted on August 2, 2021

Earlier this year, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) facilitated an anonymous, voluntary survey that was created by State House staffers in various offices, alongside Beacon BLOC, a collective of BIPOC staff members devoted to ending racial inequities among State House employees.

Many concerns were raised in this climate survey, including issues around compensation, financial security, monthly work expenses pre/post-COVID-19, pay equity and overall dynamics in the building.

DiZoglio, alongside State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville), has filed a series of five bills, all designed to assist State House staffers.

HD4386, An Act Relative to a Legislative Employee Living Wage, provides a floor for the lowest tier of legislative staff salaries to reduce the barrier for entrance into public service for members of underserved populations, for persons of color, for recent graduates for whom student debt is an insurmountable obstacle.

The legislation provides appropriate adjustments to other salary tiers to make public service a viable career choice, in order to increase diversity and representation among those who serve on the front lines between Beacon Hill and the residents of the Commonwealth.

HD4387, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation Equity Adjustment, adjusts legislative staff salaries for the entire period of the COVID-19 shutdown to reflect pandemic-driven increased costs of working from home and job responsibilities, and in light of legislator salary increases effective as of the beginning of session.

HD4388, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation COLAs, provides COLA adjustments to legislative staff salaries, similar to that provided to legislators.

HD4389, An Act Relative to Health Insurance Coverage, eliminates the waiting period for health insurance coverage for legislative staff, comparable to benefit provided to legislators.

Finally, HD4390, An Act Relative to Employee Liaison Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training, establishes a position in each chamber for an officer to anonymously represent legislative employees before all persons authorized to make employment-related decisions, to give them a voice as members of the workforce and as residents of the Commonwealth before those in positions of power.

The legislation also requires HR to make available mediation and conflict resolution training.

“State workers deserve to live with a standard of dignity in the communities they work so hard to serve,” said DiZoglio. “Beacon BLOC, the organization comprised of BIPOC staffers, has repeatedly expressed concerns that persons of color and people of low-income backgrounds cannot afford to apply for State House jobs, as they don’t provide living wages, nor immediate health care coverage. We always hear about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet don’t recognize outdated policies that make it difficult for those who don’t already come from a position of privilege to get a seat at the table. Many in low-income and gateway communities can’t afford to take a job that isn’t offering basics like health care coverage on day one – especially on the heels of the pandemic. Furthermore, those who currently work on Beacon Hill have repeatedly expressed their concerns that every single decision regarding staff compensation, titles and benefits lies solely in the hands of the powerful Speaker or Senate President and has nothing to do with their work performance, education, or experience. Workers have stated they are afraid to speak out about working conditions for fear of retaliation from the most powerful on Beacon Hill. Staff should not fear retaliation for simply raising concerns about inequities – but they do. Our hope is this legislation will help to change the culture on Beacon Hill to one of equity and inclusion.”

“More than one year after George Floyd’s murder and our nation’s racial justice reckoning, we are urging the State House to do its own self-examination of racial barriers and inequities for our staffers,” said Uyterhoeven. “I’m proud to file these bills in partnership with Beacon BLOC and Senator DiZoglio. We look forward to pushing for concrete steps to improve the working conditions for our Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color staff.”

 

Senators Call on Governor to Sever Ties with Controversial Consulting Firm

Posted on July 27, 2021

State Senators Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer) are calling on Governor Charles Baker (R-Swampscott) to end his Administration’s relationship with McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm that earlier this year paid out $573 million for its involvement in the nation’s opioid crisis.

Recently, the Governor’s Administration tasked McKinsey & Co. with conducting a report to assess the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on work behavior. This came on the heels of the Administration earlier providing funds to the firm for consultation on the state’s pandemic response.

This past February, McKinsey & Co. settled a lawsuit brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D-Boston) and 46 other state Attorneys General after admitting to their role in helping Purdue Pharma bolster the sale of opioids like Oxycontin to increase profits.

In a letter to the Governor, dated July 27, Senators DiZoglio and Gobi requested the Administration sever ties with McKinsey & Co. immediately and “stop wasting taxpayer dollars on a company that has a proven record of violating the public trust.”

“It is simply unconscionable that the Administration would reward McKinsey & Co. with additional state contracts after all of the pain they have inflicted upon families in Massachusetts and across the country,” said DiZoglio. “That they have been tasked with the preparation of critical reports on COVID-19 metrics is all the more confounding. The Administration must end its relationship with this notorious firm as soon as possible.”

“People have the right to know their tax dollars are being spent appropriately and they also need to have reassurance that reports generated from those tax dollars can be relied upon,” said Gobi. “Unfortunately, this fails in both arenas.”

Dune Renourishment Project to Begin on Salisbury Beach

Posted on June 14, 2021

The state legislative delegation and local stakeholders have announced the approval and commencement of a dune renourishment project on Salisbury Beach.

Following a significant storm this past February and several instances of dune erosion and storm surges in Salisbury, funding has been secured and allocated for the purchase of sand and permits have been approved for dune renourishment on Salisbury Beach. The approval of the project comes on the heels of months of advocacy from the state delegation and local stakeholders.

The project will consist of the placement of sand along numerous dunes in the North End Boulevard area of the beach, aimed at improving along public ways and providing residents with protections for their properties.

“I am truly grateful we have been able to get this project, which has been a long time coming, approved for the people of Salisbury, so many of whom were at risk of losing their homes due to sand dune erosion,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “This project never would have been possible without the tireless efforts and advocacy from Salisbury residents, including Town Manager Neil Harrington, Conservation Agent Adriane Marchand and the incredible members of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association.”

“Nourishing the dune system on Salisbury Beach is a proven method of responding to the type of erosion danger that now threatens homes, utilities, coastal resources, and public safety,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Fortunately, the Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association developed an initiative to join homeowners together with state and local government to get the job done, and remained focused on that initiative. That focus, in turn, gave our legislative delegation, the town of Salisbury, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Merrimack River Beach Alliance a clearly defined project, and the opportunity for collaboration. Through that partnership, and perseverance to overcome numerous obstacles, a significant amount of sand will soon be on the beach and making a difference, and proving once again the value and effectiveness of working together to confront a major problem. Everyone involved in this effort should be commended, and I have been particularly pleased to work with Senator DiZoglio and Representatives Kelcourse and Mirra to achieve this worthy objective.”

“Dune erosion and storm surges have been damaging Salisbury Beach for quite some time,” said State Representative James M. Kelcourse (R-Amesbury). “I am pleased the Baker-Polito Administration has committed to the purchase of sand to be placed on the beach, which will protect the storm battered dunes and prepare for the beach season ahead. This achievement is made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the legislative delegation – Senator DiZoglio, Senator Tarr, and Representative Mirra – along with Town Manager Harrington, Conservation Agent Marchand and the passionate citizens and members of the Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Resiliency Task Force. This project will bring the community one step closer to maintaining our beloved shoreline, and we are excited to begin this very anticipated work.”

“Although Salisbury is not in my district, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to this problem, and my office was happy to lend whatever help we could during this process,” said State Representative Lenny Mirra (R-Georgetown). “It truly took all hands on deck. We worked with a great group of hardworking, dedicated and committed people, and all that hard work paid off.”

“This project is the culmination of months of hard work and perseverance of many people,” said Tom Saab, president of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change. “We started this process just days after the February storm and it took us four months to work through the challenging permitting and funding process. I would like to thank Senators DiZoglio and Tarr, Representatives Kelcourse and Mirra, Town Manager Harrington and Conservation Agent Marchand for all of their help and guidance throughout the project. I’m just glad for the residents and our summer visitors that our team was able to prevail.”

“The approval of this project is great news for Salisbury Beach and our entire community.” said Bill Greilich, president of the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association. “It took a monumental team effort led by our legislative delegation and town officials to get it accomplished. They worked tirelessly to secure state funding and to bring the necessary state agencies to the table to ensure that all regulatory requirements were satisfied.”

 

DiZoglio Secures State Funds for Lake Gardner Beach Renovations

Posted on June 4, 2021

Among the local funds secured by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) in the Fiscal Year 2022 Senate Budget is $100,000 toward renovations at Lake Gardner Beach in the City of Amesbury.

Recently, local stakeholders have been working to address a variety of issues at Lake Gardner. The City will be hiring a Beach Director this season to ensure a consistent presence at the beach and the local Department of Public Works has been making improvements to the bathrooms there. They are also considering a potential tenant, such as a coffee shop or kayak rental company, to use the small commercial space in the building.

However, the City needs improvement of the parking area and in particular access to the beach and surrounding park in order to ensure compliance with ADA requirements.

“There has been a significant increase in use at all of the City’s recreational areas during the pandemic,” said DiZoglio. “The urban beach and its trails play an important role in keeping the community healthy, mentally and physically and these funds will go a long way to ensuring they are accessible to all residents and visitors alike.”

“Amesbury’s open spaces are an integral part of our identity, and Lake Gardner is one of our most important natural assets,” said Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove. “This funding from the state would allow us to make necessary improvements for accessibility and overall access for our residents. We are grateful to Senator DiZoglio for her continued advocacy for Amesbury and look forward to working with her and Representative Kelcourse to get this into the final FY 2022 budget and bring the funds to Amesbury.”

“As Amesbury’s District 4 City Council representative, ensuring the ongoing improvement of Lake Gardner Beach has been a priority of mine for quite some time,” said Amesbury City Council Vice President Nicholas Wheeler. “My thanks to Senator DiZoglio, Mayor Gove and their respective teams for recognizing the need for continued investment, and for helping to secure these much-needed funds for our community beach. It’s my hope that these funds can help us restore this treasured public facility for the continued enjoyment of future generations.”

 

DiZoglio Calls for Senate Oversight Hearing into Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Pearlstein Report

Posted on June 1, 2021

On the heels of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s scathing report on the behind-the-scenes roles of Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders in the tragedy at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling for a Senate oversight hearing, with sworn testimony from the Governor and his Administration, utilizing the full subpoena and record review powers within the Legislature’s purview, into the layers of potential wrongdoing raised in the Spotlight investigation.

In a June 1 letter to Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), DiZoglio raised several questions around the “Pearlstein Report,” the investigation commissioned by the Governor, spearheaded by attorney Mark W. Pearlstein, and released last summer that was critical of the home’s then-superintendent, Bennett Walsh, for mishandling the outbreak yet placed no responsibility upon the Governor or his Administration for the tragedy at Holyoke.

Among her questions, DiZoglio raised how Walsh, someone with no health care background, was hired to make life and death decisions for a vulnerable population during a global pandemic. The Senator questioned why former Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena was forced to resign by the Administration when he had no statutory oversight of the management and operations at Holyoke and also raised concerns around Governor Baker’s claim that the first time he met Walsh was during his swearing-in to the superintendent position – a claim refuted in the Spotlight report, which revealed Baker was in fact greatly involved in his hiring and even interviewed him.

“As we took time to remember and honor those brave soldiers who gave their lives for our nation this Memorial Day, I was filled with an even greater sense of urgency and responsibility to find out what truly happened at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in order to prevent it from ever happening again,” said DiZoglio. “As elected leaders, we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable veterans in our care. Now is the time to get answers to some of the questions raised by the recent Boston Globe Spotlight series which exposed not only serious flaws in the management and oversight of the entirely state-funded Holyoke Soldiers Home, but also begged the question of how to legislatively prevent similar disasters from ever happening again.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 77 residents of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke died of the virus – the deadliest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the United States during the course of the pandemic. In late March, there had been 230 residents at the home. By the end of April, only about 100 remained.

 

DiZoglio Calls for Immediate Action on Bills to Help Local Restaurants

Posted on May 17, 2021

On the heels of Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that Massachusetts’ state of emergency will end on June 15, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling for immediate action to be taken on legislation she filed to assist local restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter dated May 17 to Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) and House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy), DiZoglio calls for two bills she has filed to be advanced through the legislative process: S. 196, which expands beverage take-out and delivery options for restaurants, and SD. 2556, which extends third-party delivery cost containment for restaurants.

Measures around take-out and delivery and third-party delivery cost containment were implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and are set to expire following the end of the state of emergency. While DiZoglio has filed these measures as amendments to the FY22 Senate Budget, the final state budget will not be signed into law until well after the end of the state of emergency.

“These measures were critical to helping our small businesses remain afloat in the face of the pandemic – and remain just as essential to them now, on the road to recovery,” said DiZoglio. “It is imperative we get this legislation across the finish line as soon as possible and ensure our local restaurants do not lose access to these crucial, revenue-generating opportunities that can make all the difference regarding their survival.”

DiZoglio is sending her letter to fellow state legislators for consideration and urges concerned residents to contact their legislators and ask them to sign on.

Senator DiZoglio to Host Attorney General Healey for Small Business and Youth Engagement Roundtables

Posted on May 9, 2021

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will host Attorney General Maura Healey for a small business and youth engagement tour of the Merrimack Valley on Monday, May 10.

During the visit, DiZoglio and Healey will embark on a small business tour in the City of Haverhill, meeting with local entrepreneurs who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and listening to their concerns during a small business roundtable. The Senator and Attorney General will then meet with local youth in the City of Methuen who have been involved in the creation of a first-ever Methuen Youth and Community Center. The visit will close with Healey visiting the future Youth Center site itself.

“As I travel the state, I’ve seen how resilient our communities are as we recover from this pandemic,” said Healey. “I look forward to meeting with small business owners in Haverhill and visiting Methuen’s new youth center. Supporting the health and wellbeing of young people is a top priority of my office, and I thank Senator DiZoglio for her leadership on this important community project.”

“It has been an extremely challenging year for our small businesses, who have faced countless obstacles in weathering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DiZoglio. “I am so grateful to the Attorney General for coming to our community and meeting with local entrepreneurs who have worked tirelessly to remain afloat. I am also so excited for the Attorney General to meet with local students who have done an incredible job working toward making the dream of a Methuen Youth and Community Center a reality.”

 
 

Irene M. O’Brien Honored After Nearly Two Decades of Service as North Andover Senior Center Executive Director

Posted on March 24, 2021

After nearly two decades of service as executive director of the North Andover Senior Center, Irene M. O’Brien will this year be retiring.

O’Brien, who previously served the Towns of Salisbury, Newbury, and Groveland, was recently celebrated for her service during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration hosted by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) at the Senior Center.

DiZoglio, fellow Senator Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and State Representatives Christina A. Minicucci (D-North Andover) and Tram Nguyen (R-Andover) presented O’Brien with proclamations from the Legislature in honor of her service and accomplishments.

“In her role as executive director, Irene has been a tireless leader and advocate, helping countless older adults in the community by identifying their health, economic and social needs and working with them to improve their quality of life,” said DiZoglio. “She will be greatly missed but we wish her all the best in her retirement!”

 

DiZoglio, Perry Call on Baker for More Vaccines to the City of Methuen

Posted on March 18, 2021

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Methuen Mayor Neil Perry are calling on the Baker Administration to allocate additional COVID-19 vaccines to the City of Methuen.

Their request comes on the heels of the City of Methuen being designated a “red” community by the state Department of Public Health, meaning it is among the municipalities with the highest COVID-19 rates in the Commonwealth.

“While we appreciate the Administration recently, finally providing the City of Methuen with some vaccines, the allocation needs to be significantly ramped up now, at a time when the community needs it most,” said DiZoglio. “We are continuing to see the bulk of vaccines go to the mass vaccination sites, which are inaccessible to many residents, especially among our most vulnerable populations. People should be able to turn conveniently to their local municipal provider to receive this critical vaccine. I strongly urge the Administration to allocate additional vaccines to the City of Methuen as soon as possible.”

“While I’m grateful that we have been able to get 600 vaccine doses the last several weeks, it’s important to note that Methuen is once again this week designated as a red or high-risk community,” said Perry. “That, combined with the announcement yesterday of near-term eligibility dates for remaining citizens, makes it imperative that we are able to increase the supply to match the demand, We need the pace of vaccine distribution increased to enable every resident of our community to get vaccinated – because at our current pace, it would take more than a year – and that is simply unacceptable.”

State Delegation Calls for Severe Weather Emergency Declaration in Salisbury

Posted on February 25, 2021

The state legislative delegation is requesting the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) declares a Severe Weather Emergency Declaration in the Town of Salisbury.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen A. Theoharides, dated February 23, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) calls for both an emergency declaration and the providing of the Town of Salisbury with sand for dune nourishment. The letter was co-signed by State Senator Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and State Representatives Jim Kelcourse (R-Amesbury) and Lenny Mirra (R-Georgetown).

The call for an emergency declaration comes amidst severe sand dune erosion at Salisbury Beach, the result of increasingly harsh and more frequent storms along the coast.

“Residents who live in Salisbury, particularly on North End Boulevard, are in a dire situation,” said DiZoglio. “The sand dunes in that area are rapidly being eroded. This must be addressed as soon as possible. We can use the example of what is happening in the Reservation Terrace area of the City of Newburyport as a reference of why immediate action must be taken. Residents there are seeing major flooding of their homes and destruction of their property. If we do not act quickly, we are going to see history repeat itself in Salisbury.”

“The recent coastal storms have caused extensive damage to homes on Salisbury Beach and have compromised our protective dunes,” said Bill Greilich, president of the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association. “This erosion is putting homes and public recreation areas at immediate risk of significant, irreversible harm and is a clear illustration of the challenges our beach property owners and community face. An emergency response is urgently required along with long-term strategic planning. The Salisbury Beach Betterment Association (SBBA) is grateful for the work that Sens. Diana DiZoglio and Bruce Tarr and Rep. Jim Kelcourse have been doing on behalf of Salisbury Beach and is hopeful that this Emergency Declaration is approved as soon as possible.”

“Over the years I have personally experienced many storms at Salisbury Beach including the Blizzard of ’78, No Name Storm of 1991, Nor’easters in 2008, 2013 and 2018, and now these two in December 2020 and February 2021,” said Tom Saab, president of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change. “We continually work together to rebuild dunes and make every effort to protect our properties. However, what we must have is for the state to cooperate by declaring an emergency as they have done in the past and then assist us by providing us with sand. We, as homeowners, will then provide and pay for the contractors and equipment to do the work needed from that point on. Without an emergency declaration from the state, it becomes much more difficult and sometimes impossible for property owners to rebuild dunes and protect their properties from further damage that will surely come from future storms. The key to protecting beachfront properties, once again, is an emergency declaration from the state.”

DiZoglio Calls for State Audit into Massachusetts Vaccine Distribution

Posted on February 22, 2021

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is continuing to call on Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott) to address concerns and answer questions around Massachusetts’ rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Should the Governor’s Administration not comply, DiZoglio has requested State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump conduct an audit to obtain answers.

In a letter to Bump dated February 18, DiZoglio notes the concerns she has heard from residents around transparency and accountability in the vaccine rollout process. Among the areas DiZoglio is seeking answers on is the selection of vendors the Governor’s Administration has tasked with distributing the vaccine.

According to DiZoglio, when her office inquired the state Department of Public Health whether there was a Request for Proposal (RFP) process involved, their response was “since vaccination distribution is a federal process, we do not have a role in that.”

“My question wasn’t about allocation to the state,” said DiZoglio. “It was about allocation within the state. We still need answers from the Governor. All of the vendors appear to be private companies. The public deserves to know the Administration’s rationale for selecting these vendors and how much taxpayer money is going to these companies. This applies to the venues and pharmacies the Administration is working alongside as well – what is their rationale for selecting certain sites over others and how much funding are they receiving? Moreover, is there a supplier diversity component being implemented?”

DiZoglio’s effort comes in advance of this Thursday’s first oversight hearing of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management.

“I am tremendously grateful for the formation of the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management and its capable leadership’s commitment to probing the Administration’s plans through oversight hearings, and believe the Auditor’s office, with the many resources it has, is uniquely qualified to push for and help us obtain these particular answers more swiftly, working alongside the Legislature‘s efforts to provide much needed, continued oversight,” said DiZoglio.

 

DiZoglio Vaccine Pre-Registration Bill Gets Boost After Federal Lawmakers Call on Governor to Establish System

Posted on February 16, 2021

Massachusetts’ federal legislative delegation is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott) to launch a pre-registration system for the COVID-19 vaccine, a push that comes on the heels of State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)’s filing of SD709, An Act relative to COVID-19 vaccination pre-registration.

In a letter penned by U.S. Representative Katherine Clark and co-signed by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Representatives Lori Trahan, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Bill Keating and Jake Auchincloss, the lawmakers express their concerns over the state’s vaccine rollout and lack of the sort of pre-registration system that has been launched in other U.S. states, such as Florida, New Jersey and West Virginia.

“We remain deeply concerned that the absence of a centralized pre-registration system for vaccine appointments has contributed to a slow and inequitable deployment of vaccines in Massachusetts, a trend that will only be exacerbated by increased demand as appointments open up to future eligibility groups,” wrote the lawmakers. “We therefore implore you to act with the requisite urgency to develop and implement a centralized, accessible system for all Massachusetts residents to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations, confirm eligibility details, and receive notification when an appointment becomes available at a convenient location.”

“Our federal delegation led by Congresswoman Clark has hit the nail on the head,” said DiZoglio. “A centralized, accessible system would provide our communities the ability to pre-register for COVID-19 vaccinations, confirm eligibility details, and receive notification when an appointment becomes available at a convenient location. I am so grateful to our federal legislative delegation for throwing their weight behind the call to establish a pre-registration system in Massachusetts. Our voices are only going to continue to get louder until the Governor acts. If he won’t budge, it is our responsibility to take up this measure and lead in the Senate by passing this legislation immediately.”

Massachusetts Sewage (CSO) Notification Bill Signed into Law

Posted on February 16, 2021

Under legislation recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker (R-Swampscott), a statewide sewage discharge notification system will be established to alert residents when such discharges make public rivers and beaches unsafe.

An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters, sponsored by Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and co-sponsored by Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) alongside House sponsors Representatives Denise Provost (D-Somerville) and Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen), was introduced in response to pollution issues that for decades have plagued the Commonwealth’s public waters, namely discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

A recent report released by the nonprofit Environment America found that “each year in the U.S., swimmers in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds suffer from an estimated 57 million cases of recreational waterborne illness.” It also found that “an analysis of fecal indicator bacteria sampling data from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico reveals that 386 beaches – nearly one of every eight surveyed – were potentially unsafe on at least 25 percent of the days that sampling took place last year.”

“As many know, we’ve done a tremendous amount of work as a region to highlight this issue – to the point of kayaking the entire 117-mile-long length of the Merrimack River to help raise awareness,” said DiZoglio, following her remarks at the legislation’s bill signing ceremony. “This legislation is long overdue to keep the public informed about sewage overflows into our beloved Merrimack River and all waterways across the Commonwealth. It is just one step and we have much more work to do but we must celebrate this significant step in the right direction that was able to be accomplished through teamwork. Thank you to all residents and advocates who have been pushing for years for this. Your persistence and determination made this happen. Thanks to Governor Baker for signing this important bill into law.”

 

DiZoglio Calls on Baker to Improve Vaccine Accessibility in the City of Methuen

Posted on February 15, 2021

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling on the Baker Administration to bolster vaccine availability and accessibility in the City of Methuen.

In a letter, sent to Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders on February 15, DiZoglio outlined the concerns she has heard from Methuen residents around lack of access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Last week, the City of Methuen received 100 doses of the vaccine. It was then informed it would receive no doses from the state this week. According to DiZoglio, her office was advised by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that the low dose number was the result of a federal vaccine shortage. However, the state continues to distribute significant numbers of doses to pharmacies across Massachusetts.

“The City put in great work and time to establish a vaccine distribution center, per the request of your Administration, that accommodates social distancing and long lines,” said DiZoglio in the letter. “Pharmacies do not have such space to ensure social distancing. The allocation makes no sense.”

DiZoglio argues the federal supply issue raised by DPH is not the issue – rather it is about “effective allocation between vaccine providers.”

“People, especially in the current vaccination group, should be able to conveniently turn to their local municipal provider,” said DiZoglio. “The mass vaccine sites that have been established can be physically difficult to get to and maneuver.”

In her letter, DiZoglio also raised questions and concerns over which specific vaccines have gone out and to whom. The vaccine produced by Pfizer requires a different type of freezer refrigeration than the vaccine by Moderna and its parts must be reconstituted prior to inoculation.

“Municipalities can store the Moderna vaccine but are generally unequipped to store the Pfizer, which hospitals and pharmacies are better equipped to store,” said DiZoglio. “To the extent allocations are made, the state must take this into account. It is critical that we know how much of each vaccine is going out and to whom.”

On February 12, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School gave the Commonwealth of Massachusetts an ‘F’ grade for its rollout, based on a ranking among all 50 states on key metrics, including vaccines distributed as a share of the adult population and as a share of the doses available to be delivered in the state.

“The City of Methuen is not alone in facing these significant challenges,” said DiZoglio. “Cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth have expressed frustration over the vaccine rollout, with legislators offering countless letters to the Governor’s Administration, many of which I have either written or signed on to. Our most vulnerable residents have been incredibly patient. It is beyond past time the Administration finally gets with the program, as so many other states have been able to do and provides our communities with the support they desperately need.”

DiZoglio Bill Calls for a COVID-19 Preregistration System in Massachusetts

Posted on February 5, 2021

Under a new bill filed by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be required to provide for pre-registration regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Senate Docket 709, An Act relative to COVID-19 vaccination preregistration, tasks the state’s Department of Public Health with establishing a centralized system for residents to pre-register. Vaccines would be distributed to persons based on which phase they fall under.

DiZoglio’s bill comes on the heels of rampant frustration among Massachusetts residents with the state’s rollout of the vaccine, in particular the Commonwealth’s vaccine website, which has left many spending hours in search of an appointment, only to hit a dead end.

Should the bill be signed into law, it will join several U.S. states, including Florida, New Jersey and West Virginia, that have produced a vaccine preregistration tool for residents to utilize. Moreover, several municipalities in Massachusetts, including the Towns of Cohasset and Hingham, have proceeded with similar preregistration systems at the local level.

“We need to get ahead of this pandemic instead of continuing to chase after it,” said DiZoglio. “The vaccine rollout has been less than ideal but we can ensure that the frustration experienced by the first group of eligible recipients is not replicated during subsequent phases of the vaccine distribution plan. We can do that by giving all Massachusetts residents the opportunity to establish eligibility and preregister for the vaccine instead of spending time and energy trying to schedule appointments whose availability is determined by the vaccine supply chain. A centralized state-level preregistration system would provide residents a way to effectively hold their space in line and alert them to available appointments as their vaccination eligibility phase opens.”

 

DiZoglio Calls on Baker Administration for Accessible and Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine

Posted on January 27, 2021

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling on the Baker Administration for clearer communication and increased information as residents across Massachusetts struggle to obtain access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a letter, dated January 27 and sent to Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, DiZoglio noted she has heard from many residents who expressed concerns around the rollout of the vaccine.

“Our communities need to know where, when and how they can receive this vaccine,” said DiZoglio in the letter. “That is simply not the case right now.”

DiZoglio noted particular concern around the state’s COVID-19 vaccine website, which residents have described to her as a “dead end” in their efforts to obtain an appointment. Moreover, much to the frustration of residents without internet access, the Commonwealth does not presently offer a phone line that can be called to make a vaccine appointment. DiZoglio called on the Administration to establish such a hotline as soon as possible.

Also raised by DiZoglio were concerns around who is receiving the vaccine first.

“I have heard from many in my community who are rightfully perplexed and frustrated by the Administration’s prioritizing of young, healthy medical researchers – most of who are working remotely – over at-risk seniors, who have been waiting patiently on the sidelines for the vaccine,” said DiZoglio. “Seniors in other New England states – Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont – have been receiving the vaccine while researchers, many of who have nothing to do with COVID-19 or patient care at all, are ahead of the line in Massachusetts.”

According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts ranks 37th in the nation in administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Merrimack Valley Lawmakers Secure Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Measures in Energy Bill

Posted on January 5, 2021

A major climate policy bill approved by the Legislature contains significant provisions to address natural gas safety, thanks in large part to efforts in the Senate by the Merrimack Valley delegation.

The actions respond to the tragic 2018 Merrimack Valley explosions which took the life of Leonel Rondon, an 18 year old who died after a chimney from a house explosion collapsed on the car he was in. The gas explosions resulted in a string of injuries from fires, and other disruptions after Columbia Gas over-pressurized natural gas lines. Tens of thousands of North Andover, Lawrence and Andover residents were displaced from their homes and places of work.

Elements of An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy addressing natural gas safety include:

• Requiring the Department of Public Utilities to issue new regulations relative to training and certifying utility contractors;
• Instructing the Department of Public Utilities to set standards for maintaining gas distribution maps and records;
• Directing gas companies to report “disruptions in the provision of electronic data” as a service quality metric;
• Adding whistleblower protections for utility employees who report violations of law by their employers;
• Increasing penalties for failure to restore service after emergencies;
• Raising the cap on civil penalties for gas pipeline safety violations, allowing for fines in excess of those set by federal law;
• Requiring all written complaints regarding gas service to be investigated and responded to in a timely manner, and directing the DPU to establish a publicly-accessible database of such complaints; and
• Strengthening gas company plans to address aging and leaking infrastructure, by setting interim targets for reducing gas leak rates and authorizing the DPU to levy fines for non-compliance.

“I am so grateful that among other important measures, this bill increases penalties for failure to restore service after emergencies; requires new regulations around training and certifying utility contractors; extends whistleblower protections to utility employees who report violations by their employers, and creates a database in which all written complaints around gas service will be made public,” said Senator Diana DiZoglio (D – Methuen). “There remains much work to be done but these are nonetheless key steps in our efforts to prevent future incidents.”

“The tragedy, hardship, suffering and economic damage that North Andover, Lawrence, and Andover have endured because of the gas explosions of September 2018 compel us to take effective action to prevent such events from ever happening again,” said Senator Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester). He added that “we must not fail to learn from what has happened and do everything possible to make our natural gas system safer. Our legislative members from the House and the Senate have worked in a bipartisan and focused way to achieve that goal.”

“This crucial legislation will hold public utility companies accountable, strengthen safety standards, and help prevent natural gas disasters in the future,” said Senator Barry Finegold (D – Andover). “The Columbia Gas explosions devastated our community. A young man lost his life, families spent months homeless, and many suffered significant financial hardships. I look forward to continuing to work with local, state, and federal officials to increase regulatory oversight of the natural gas industry and help the Merrimack Valley recover from the Columbia Gas tragedy.”

The federal National Transportation Safety Board last year, in a 73-page report, stated “weak engineering management that did not adequately plan, review, sequence, and oversee the construction project” was a factor that disrupted the gas distribution system.

Members of the Merrimack Valley delegation called for oversight hearings of Columbia Gas immediately following the incident. At a 2019 hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the lawmakers stressed the important role the Legislature should play with state regulators to make sure these and similar operations are safe, effective and efficient.

The members stressed that while the bill contains important measures to increase safety, they will be seeking additional measures for that purpose in the new legislative session. With the support of the House of Representatives and final passage in the Senate, the bill now moves to the desk of Governor Baker for his consideration.

 
 

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