NORTH ANDOVER — The town's delegation to the Statehouse recently briefed selectmen on priorities for the upcoming legislative session, highlighting education funding, local aid and transparency.
State Sen.-elect Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, and state Reps.-elect Christina Minicucci, D-North Andover, and Tram Nguyen, D-Andover, met with the board on Monday in open session. State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, was not present.
DiZoglio said one of her top priorities in the Senate would be advocating for a change in the way the state funds public education.
"We need to change the state's education funding formula," DiZoglio said. In the past legislative session, the Education Committee, of which she was a member, reported out a foundation budget review that indicated the state is underfunding public education by $1 billion.
Versions of an updated funding bill made it past both the Senate and the House, but they were never able to reconcile their differences to pass it as law.
Minicucci, representative for the 14th Essex District, and Nguyen, representative for the 18th Essex District, are both political newcomers. They both vowed to have a visible and accessible presence in the valley.
Nguyen brought up the natural gas disaster recovery process, and said she would be looking into making sure customers don't foot the bill by way of increased rates.
Selectmen also had the opportunity to share with their legislators what they hope to see in the next session.
Selectman Phil DeCologero advocated for more Community Preservation Act funding, paid for by a surcharge on residents' property taxes of up to 3 percent that is matched by the state. A bill that would ensure the dollar match for CPA funding is at least 50 percent was on the docket last session but never made it through the Legislature. Current funding is about 17 percent, said DeCologero.
"I would just ask if our legislators wouldn't mind being as loud as you possibly can in advocating for this bill," he said.
Selectman Chris Nobile asked the legislators, none of whom have yet been sworn into their new positions, what the board could do to improve their effectiveness in the Statehouse.
"What can we do to help you get that push down field and over the finish line?" he asked.
DiZoglio acknowledged that a lot of legislation "dies in the rooms, in the back halls of the Statehouse," and said she would be pushing for more transparency, including recorded roll call votes.
"That's how you can help right now, assisting your legislators who are pushing for greater transparency at all levels," she said, noting that the movement is "not something that's a shared viewpoint across the board."