DiZoglio Takes First Legal Steps to Force Legislature to Comply with Operations Audit

Chris Lisinski, State House News Service

The bitter fight between state Auditor Diana DiZoglio and the legislative leaders with whom she used to serve could head to court. As expected, DiZoglio announced Wednesday she will pursue litigation to try to force the House and Senate to comply with her audit of their operations after top Democrats refused by arguing that the auditor’s office does not have that authority. Flanked by stacks of historical reports, DiZoglio said her office’s research determined the state auditor has audited the legislature on at least 113 previous occasions. DiZoglio, a former representative and senator from Methuen elected to her new office in November, said House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka’s refusal to comply with a probe by the auditor’s office is “unacceptable” and pledged to challenge the matter in court. “We have two legislators who were elected by a very small fraction of the state twisting and weaponizing both Massachusetts General Law and the Constitution against the people of the entire state of Massachusetts to try and shield themselves from basic accountability,” DiZoglio said.

Fiorentini Urges Legislators to Add More Street Repair Money to Compromise, Fewer Strings

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini says he’s happy both branches of the state legislature are moving toward compromise on road money, but has concerns the base amount doesn’t keep up with inflation and an additional amount in grants makes it difficult to plan. The House and Senate both approved legislation authorizing $200 million for the Chapter 90 program and another $150 million in transportation-related infrastructure grants. Lawmakers, however, have been unable to agree on where to direct $25 million of those grants. Now, they’ve named a six-lawmaker conference committee led by Transportation Committee Co-chairs Rep. William Straus and Sen. Brendan Crighton to find a compromise. A final bill and decision could come Thursday, but the mayor says he hopes legislators will add money by then.

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, Others Create Youth Summer Jobs with AG Grant

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Haverhill, Groundwork Lawrence and Merrimack Valley YMCA in Lawrence are among 59 organizations sharing in $230,000 in state grants to create and pay for youth jobs this summer. Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell said the summer jobs are focused on mental health, physical well-being and overall wellness. Other local groups creating summer jobs are Beyond Soccer and Boys & Girls Club, both of Lawrence. This is the ninth year the attorney general’s office is running the Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant Program. “I am thrilled to continue the Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Program and provide young people across the state with opportunities to engage with their communities and develop new skills,” said Campbell.

Vargas Bill Would Create Fund to Pay for Energy Efficiency Renovations of Public Buildings

A bill proposed by Rep. Andy X. Vargas to help pay for energy efficiency renovation of public buildings is set to be heard Wednesday by House members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Vargas’ bill would create a “Zero Carbon Renovation Fund” to pay “costs associated with the renovation of existing buildings including affordable housing, public housing, homes rented or owned by low- and moderate-income households, municipal buildings.” Covered buildings would include public schools and small businesses with Massachusetts State Supplier Diversity Office Certifications. Money from the fund could also be used where such buildings first require “mitigation of mold, asbestos, insect and animal infestation, lead paint, electric system upgrades to meet current code or facilitate building electrification, accessibility upgrades required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The Zero Carbon Renovation Fund would be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy meetings Wednesday, July 19, 10 a.m., both in-person at State House Hearing Room A-2 and online. Written testimony is also accepted.

Vargas Says State House Training Helps Reverse Stigma Around Opioid Overdose Treatment

More than 150 Massachusetts legislators and their staffs recently learned how to use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. Reps. Andy Vargas, Kate Donaghue and Smitty Pignatelli and Sen. John Keenan hosted the training at the State House for legislators and staff. Naloxone is commonly known by its brand name Narcan. The event, named the Brian Donaghue Simpson Naloxone Training and Advocacy Day, was held in honor of Donaghue’s late son Brian, who died of an overdose in 2018 when he was 32.

Haverhill YMCA’s Fuller Receives Honors During Commonwealth Heroines Celebration

Tracy Fuller, Haverhill YMCA’s regional executive director, was honored last week at the Massachusetts State House during the annual Commonwealth Heroines Celebration. Rep. Andy X. Vargas nominated Fuller in honor of her work in our community and her outstanding contributions to the YMCA. “Tracy works diligently every day to support Haverhill families. Most notably her leadership in providing childcare and after-school programs at the YMCA is critical in assisting our working parents and providing high-quality early education and care. Tracy is an incredible partner, and it was an honor to nominate her for this year’s Heroines award,” Vargas said.

West Newbury Man Among 11 From Massachusetts Sent to Fight Canadian Wildfires

Benjamin Jennell of West Newbury is one of 11 state wildland firefighters dispatched by Gov. Maura Healey’s administration to Quebec, Canada to help battle some of the more than 124 wildfires that have burned since the beginning of the month. Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper and officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation joined together last Thursday morning to send off the firefighter crew at DCR’s Bureau of Forestry and Fire Control headquarters in Carlisle. “Over the last several years we have seen the impacts of the climate crisis here at home and around the world, in the forms of extreme weather and increasingly severe wildfires that continue to ravage our forests,” said Healey. “We are proud of these 11 Massachusetts wildland firefighters who are heading up to assist our Canadian partners in battling these intense wildfires.”

The deployment came in response to a request the state received last week from the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center at the White Mountain National Forest in Campden, N.H. The firefighters will travel to La Touque, where they will be assigned to one of many ongoing fire incidents throughout the province. The crew, which is also referred to as a “Wildfire Suppression Module,” will engage in direct fire suppression, working on the fire line for about 14 days—building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires and protecting structures.

Essex County Greenbelt Secures State Grant to Help Protect Haverhill’s Crystal Lake

Essex County Greenbelt Association was awarded a $162,500 state grant Wednesday as part of the nonprofit’s continuing efforts to preserve land adjacent to Haverhill’s Crystal Lake drinking water supply. As only WHAV reported last fall, Greenbelt laid out plans to work with the city to jointly purchase development rights to 54 acres, buying 19 acres of land outright and accepting a donation of 15 acres of lakefront. At a neighborhood gathering last November, Greenbelt Vice President Christopher B. LaPointe outlined the urgency of the preservation effort. “If you can imagine these properties without trees…and with lawns and homes and driveways and dog waste and swimming pools and septic systems. All of that has to go somewhere and, in this case, that’s running into your drinking water,” he said. The grant is aimed preserving and using 18.61 acres of land for passive recreation, wildlife habitat and watershed protection purposes and is a part of a larger 88-acre protected area.