Saturday, May 8, 2021

Baker-Polito Administration Awards $1.3 Million to Support Recycling, Waste Reduction for Communities and Regional Groups

The Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $1.3 million in grant funding to 34 communities, regional groups and non-profit organizations through the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program (SMRP). The grants will help to increase diversion, reuse, composting and recycling of materials in the solid waste stream. 

“Supporting and encouraging the proactive environmental protection efforts happening at the local level is one of the most effective measures we can take to reduce waste in cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By reducing the waste stream with a combination of recycling, diversion and materials re-use, we are able to work closely with our municipal partners to improve the health of communities throughout Massachusetts.”

“Massachusetts residents are committed to protecting the environment and these local recycling initiative grants play a major and important role in diverting the state's waste stream to recycling sustainability,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “I am delighted that communities in our area and across the state are being recognized and supported for their efforts.”

The SMRP, created under the Green Communities Act and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), offers funding for recycling, composting, reuse and source reduction activities that will reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills and incinerators. Waste prevention and recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions by capturing the embodied energy in every-day product and packaging waste and converting these sources into new products with a smaller carbon footprint.

MassDEP awarded funds in several categories, including start-up incentives for Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) programs, wheeled-carts for curbside collection of recyclables, large containers for collection of target materials at municipal transfer stations, school recycling assistance programs and innovative waste reduction projects.

A mattress recycling incentive grant, now in its sixth year, has been awarded to 19 communities across the state. The grants will pay for the cost of recycling residential mattresses that are collected and recycled by one of four mattress recycling companies on Massachusetts state contract. About 75 percent of a mattress’s components are recyclable. Recycling is a preferred management method since mattresses are bulky and costly to dispose of in landfills and incinerators. MassDEP has allocated up to $438,000 to pay for recycling of mattresses in the coming year and expects the increased supply will help drive a stronger recycling market.

“I’m pleased to see that Rockport is benefitting from the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program and will be able to offer incentives that will promote recycling, reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and incinerators, and help to create a greener Cape Ann and Commonwealth,” said State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

An alphabetical list of the cities, towns, regional groups and non-profit organizations that have been awarded a grant, as well as more information about the SMRP program, can be found here.

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources. 



Friday, May 7, 2021

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Reopening of Additional Phase 4 Industries to Go Into Effect May 10th

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that Massachusetts will move forward in the Commonwealth's reopening plan to reopen certain outdoor Phase 4 industries effective May 10th, as previously announced. The Administration continues to take steps to reopen the Commonwealth's economy with public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction. 

On March 22, Massachusetts loosened restrictions and advanced to Phase IV of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. Since then, daily new COVID-19 cases have dropped by 45%, hospitalizations have dropped by 23%, and deaths have dropped by 69%. All these metrics have dropped by around 80% or more since the beginning of the year. The Commonwealth also remains a national leader in COVID-19 vaccinations, and over 3.9 million people are fully or partially vaccinated, and Massachusetts is on track to meet its goal of vaccinating over 4 million people by the beginning of June.

Effective Monday, May 10th:

The Commonwealth will reopen certain outdoor Phase 4 industries.

Amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks will be permitted to operate at a 50% capacity after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.

Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts and other appropriate safety measures after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.

Additionally, large capacity venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ballparks currently open at 12% capacity as part of Phase 4, Step 1 will be permitted to increase capacity to 25%.

Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high-risk sports.

Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.

Grocery stores and retail stores with a pharmacy department should consider dedicated hours of operation for seniors, but will no longer be required to offer senior hours.

Additional Changes Anticipated to be Effective Saturday, May 29th:

Contingent on continued positive trends in the public health and vaccination data, on May 29th, additional sectors will be permitted to re-open and gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.

The additional sectors that will be permitted to open include:

Parades, street festivals and agricultural festivals, after submitting safety plans to the local board of health including measures for maintaining social distance, staffing and operations plans and hygiene and cleaning protocols.

Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries, and distilleries, which will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90 minute limit and no dance floors.

Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.

Last week, the Administration also relaxed the Face Coverings Order for some outdoor settings and announced further reopening plans for August 1st.

For more information, visit



Detecting Dyslexia - Editorial Support

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Every learner is unique and the rate of development will vary from person to person and that's why I will continue to work with others to help students with dyslexia. 

From the Salem Evening News

Our View: Detecting Dyslexia

May 6, 2021

It’s not like state education leaders have been relaxing without much to occupy their time, after more than a year spent ripping apart and rebuilding public education in a pandemic. But guidelines for screening for dyslexia, particularly in the elementary grades, are a long time coming.

The Legislature three years ago voted to require screening for the neurological disability, as Massachusetts joined 34 other states including New Hampshire to do so, according to the National Center for Improving Literacy. But a definition of dyslexia, and a framework for screening for districts to implement, were just released by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this past January.

Research suggests as many as 17% of children are affected by dyslexia, which hinders one’s ability to recognize and decode words, as well as the sounds associated with printed language. Spotting and addressing dyslexia is as essential to a young student’s learning and development as is identifying those students who are nearsighted or need help hearing.

“Despite the number of students impacted, the considerable advances in research, and the increase in dyslexia-related legislation in the U.S., early identification and targeted education of students with dyslexia in public schools remains a challenge,” write the authors of the state’s guidelines. Their 81-page document, covering the gamut from who screens children and how, to descriptions of evidence-based programs to help students learn to read, is a significant step in addressing this need.

We look forward to the day in the near future when identifying dyslexia, and arranging resources for those with the disorder, is as unremarkable as the school nurse asking students to read off the letters on an eye chart.

Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who co-sponsored the 2018 bill prompting the new guidelines, told Statehouse reporter Christian Wade that Massachusetts needs to be “far more aggressive” about intervention. “No child should be sitting in a classroom struggling to keep pace and feeling frustrated or depressed because they have dyslexia that hasn’t been properly identified or addressed,” said Tarr. Indeed, It’s as unjust as allowing a child who cannot see the whiteboard to sit disengaged in the back.

Creating a protocol to detect and address dyslexia is the least we can do for our kids.



Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ribbon Cutting For Fresh Pearl MedSpa's Grand Opening In North Andover

I was happy to be invited to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Fresh Pearl MedSpa of North Andover. Wishing this venture the best of luck. With State Representative Christina Minicucci, State Senator Diana DiZoglio, the North Andover Merchants Association, and others.



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Health Coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector and the American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan, signed into law in March 2021, delivers new and expanded subsidies to millions of Americans—and hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts through the Massachusetts Health Connector—to help lower the cost of their health insurance. 

The financial help available to help pay for insurance through the Affordable Care Act has been increased, which means most people who already get help paying for insurance will get more support, and many people who used to not qualify for help will now see lower monthly premiums. The new expanded help paying for health coverage through the Health Connector is now available to Massachusetts residents.



Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Announces Placard Abuse Prevention Week

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing that Placard Abuse Prevention Week, a yearly public service campaign that seeks to bring attention and awareness to the misuse of disability parking placards is taking place this week from, Monday, May 3, 2021, through Friday, May 7, 2021. The RMV along with the members of the Massachusetts Disability Placard Abuse Task Force developed Placard Abuse Prevention Week to highlight the seriousness of this issue and use educational messaging and outreach to inform members of the public about stringent penalties for usage of fraudulent credentials. 

“The RMV takes intentional misuse of disability placards very seriously and we are pleased to set aside a dedicated week to raise awareness of this issue,” said Acting Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie. “Placards should only be used by customers who have a documented medical need for this accommodation and require parking spaces which are in close physical proximity to their destinations.”

The Massachusetts Disability Placard Abuse Task Force meets regularly to share information and best practices on fraud reporting procedures and to discuss ways to increase placard training for partners in law enforcement and members of local commissions on disabilities. Task Force members include representatives from the RMV, Massachusetts Office on Disability, Boston’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Office of the Inspector General, the Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police, local law enforcement, the Boston Transportation Department and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

The Commonwealth has taken steps to proactively help prevent the misuse of placards through creating more distinguishable features on the placard that can be more easily spotted by law enforcement, developing strict provisions and penalties surrounding enforcement and administrative requirements, and increasing the documentation requirements and verification practices from medical providers to ensure greater accountability. Massachusetts placards feature the image of the issued placard holder and prominently display bold placard expiration dates for increased enforcement efforts.

The Baker-Polito Administration in 2017 signed into law legislation that imposed criminal penalties for forging, counterfeiting or stealing a placard, prohibited using a deceased individual’s placard and imposed a $500 fine for first-time violators and a $1,000 fine for a second violation, increased the driver’s license suspension for a person wrongfully displaying a placard to 60 days for a first offense and 120 days for a second offense, and imposed a $50 fine for obstructing the number or expiration date of a placard. The law also allows the RMV to request additional information from an applicant to support the medical necessity for a placard.

The most common forms of disability placard abuse are as follows:

● Using someone else's disability placard, or parking in a disabled parking spot with a disability plate and the disabled person not present;

● Using an expired placard;

● Using an old-style indefinite placard, which has not been valid for use since 2008; and

● Making a counterfeit placard, photocopying, or altering an existing one.

Massachusetts citizens are encouraged to submit disability parking abuse complaints online. In addition, constituents are able to mail the Parking Abuse Complaint Form Disability Placards and Plates directly to the RMV. Residents can also call the Inspector General’s Placard Abuse Hotline at (855) 963-2580 to report the abuse. In order to report disability parking abuse, the following information is needed: the vehicle's license plate number, location of the abuse,description of the vehicle, description of the person abusing the disability parking, and the description of activity leading you to believe this is a case of parking abuse.

The RMV continually receives, thoroughly reviews, and processes thousands of placard applications each year. In 2020, the Registry received applications for and issued approximately 101,009 placards



Here's The Schoop on Boxford's Earth Day

This weekend I helped out for Boxford's town-wide cleanup. The #Boxford Village Gardeners Club and the Boxford Recycling Committee sponsored and organized the 2021 HELP (Help Eliminate Litter Program), which culminated with an event that included free Benson's Homemade Ice Cream. Participants were offered a dish of ice cream if they dropped off a bag of trash picked up from around town. This was a wonderful day.