Month: April 2015

Sen. Lesser Welcomes Israeli Consul General Yehuda Yaakov

State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) met with Israeli Consul General to New England Yehuda Yaakov during a formal session of the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday, April 30 in commemoration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, honoring the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948.

“It was an honor to welcome Consul General Yaakov to the Statehouse and to celebrate the close ties between Massachusetts and Israel,” Lesser said. “There are more than 200 Israeli companies currently operating in Massachusetts, generating billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs.”

During the Consul General’s visit to the Senate Chamber, Senator Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) presented Yaakov with a Senate Resolution from a number of senators, including Lesser, highlighting the important economic relationship the Commonwealth has forged with the nation of Israel and encouraging the continued growth of this special partnership.

Lesser noted that El Al Israel Airlines will introduce regular non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and Boston beginning in June, which he said is one of many opportunities for economic development with Israel in the Commonwealth and Western Massachusetts in particular. As Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, Lesser has defended the need for robust tourism funding from the state to encourage the expansion of international marketing partnerships with Massachusetts and countries such as Israel.

Yaakov’s visit marks the third time the Israeli Consul General has visited the State House. Following an introduction by Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), Yaakov addressed the Senate about the relationship between Israel and the United States and the strong cultural ties and friendship between the Jewish communities of Boston and Israel.

The Consul General of Israel is the official representative of the State of Israel to New England and serves as the liaison between the residents of New England and the State of Israel. Yaakov has been a member of Israel’s Foreign Service since 1989.

Sen. Eric Lesser Appointed Senate Chair of Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus

BOSTON–Senator Eric Lesser announced today that he is the new Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, which aims to inform, implement, and evaluate state policies to support the competitiveness of Massachusetts manufacturers.

“Precision manufacturing is an important economic driver for the residents of Western Massachusetts,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “With Senator Lesser’s leadership of the Joint Caucus on Manufacturing, we will continue working to close the skills gap to fill these good paying jobs in our region.”

“The strength of our economy is intricately tied to the manufacturing sector,” said Senator Lesser, who published an op-ed on MassLive.com last week on advanced manufacturing in Massachusetts.

“Now is the time to develop 21st Century strategies for fostering its growth and expansion, especially in Western Massachusetts, where manufacturing has been a backbone of our economy for over two centuries,” he added.

“The manufacturing sector is driving economic growth across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Senator Lesser will do a terrific job highlighting opportunities for continued collaboration with this important industry and help us find ways to prepare our workforce for these in-demand jobs.”

“I welcome Senator Lesser as Senate Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus,”  said Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford), who serves as House Chair of the Manufacturing Caucus.  “The Caucus is a valuable tool in linking legislators with manufacturing businesses in their districts, providing resources to those businesses, and advocating public policy and budgetary priorities that solve problems hampering businesses and advance manufacturing growth across Massachusetts. I look forward to Senator Lesser bringing his energy and leadership to the Caucus.”

Manufacturing in Massachusetts encompasses  nearly 7,700 companies and generates $43 billion in annual revenue. 54% percent of all manufacturing jobs in Hampden and Hampshire Counties are in advanced manufacturing, but more than 44,000 advanced manufacturing job vacancies are expected to go unfilled in Massachusetts by 2015, according to a new report by the New England Council.

Lesser named one of “40 Under 40” by BusinessWest

Eric Lesser likened it to being equipment manager for the 2004 World Series-winning Boston Red Sox.

That’s how he chose to describe his time as “ground logistics coordinator” for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign for the presidency. “Basically, my job was to keep track of all the luggage and all the equipment as we crisscrossed the country,” he explained. “I had to keep track of all the loose ends and make sure everything went smoothly.”

Obama, Lesser, and the rest of the campaign team visited 47 states and logged 200,000 miles that year. Since then, he hasn’t traveled nearly as much, but he’s certainly covered a lot of territory, figuratively speaking.

Indeed, after forging a relationship with Obama’s eventual senior advisor, David Axelrod, during the campaign, Lesser went to work for him in the White House, occupying a desk just a few feet from the Oval Office during a critical, intense time in the nation’s history, one defined by the Great Recession and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He would later become director of Strategic Planning for the White House Council of Economic Advisors before enrolling in Harvard Law School in 2011. As he pursued that degree, he became a father (daughter Rose is now 21 months old), was hired as a technical consultant to the HBO series Veep — “they’ll e-mail me scripts, and I’ll make sure everything sounds good and is realistic” — and eventually decided to pursue public service on another level.

Indeed, in the spring of 2014, he announced his intentions to seek the state Senate seat being vacated by Gail Candaras, and in November he triumphed in a hard-fought election, becoming the youngest of the state’s 40 senators.

Today, Lesser is focusing his efforts on the issues that dominated his campaign, the battle against opioid abuse — he’s been named to the Senate committee addressing that issue and has written several pieces of legislation to confront the problem — and economic development, especially efforts to revitalize the region’s manufacturing sector and retain young talent.

“Western Mass. can be a place where young people can grow and prosper, and where young families can stay,” he said. “We can do that if we focus on those areas where we have traditional strength, like high-tech manufacturing. There’s a reason why the Armory was here, and American Bosch, and Indian Motocycle; let’s build on that history.”

— George O’Brien

http://businesswest.com/blog/eric-lesser/

Op-ed: Taking steps to close the skills gap in Western Mass.

In MassLive 4/15/17

This winter, I brought several of my colleagues on a tour of a state-of-the-art facility filled with computerized modeling software and high-tech instruments. There, I chatted with workers who were locally trained in cutting-edge technology. They spoke with pride about their ability to provide a good life for their families. We weren’t in Boston, but in Chicopee, where an advanced manufacturing company called Hoppe Technologies has been operating for over 74 years.

The Pioneer Valley has been a manufacturing hub for over two centuries, starting with the Springfield Armory. But our region is at risk of losing its competitive edge because of difficulty attracting, developing, and retaining a high-quality workforce.

The precision manufacturing industry, which makes components for things like jet engines, semiconductors and electronics, is flourishing here in Western Mass., representing more than half of all manufacturing jobs in Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

But there’s a big problem: over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in this industry will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers. This presents a lot of wasted potential and a major threat to our economic well-being, especially since the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000.

To bridge this gap, we must help our schools and training programs prepare enough workers to fill the local, high-paying jobs available in this cutting-edge field.

Fortunately, we don’t have to look far for examples of great training programs. Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s machine tool technology program has seen great success. The Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, where I recently visited, is working on innovative programs to improve technical training for local high school students. And the Smith & Wesson Applications Center at STCC, which I toured shortly after its opening, received a large grant this year to fund new degree programs in device manufacturing.

In the State Senate, I’m working with my colleagues on several policies to close the skills gap. One priority is continued funding of the Workforce Development Grant Program, which includes a precision manufacturing pilot program here in Hampden County. I’ve also co-sponsored legislation to create a state-level “new market tax credit” that would stimulate private sector investment, growth and job creation in low-income communities. Finally, to attract more high-tech, high-growth businesses, I authored legislation to offer incentives for investors who target their funds at entrepreneurs located in cities like Chicopee, Springfield and other locations outside Greater Boston.

The Pioneer Valley has a proud history of manufacturing. Let’s build on what we do well and ensure our middle class stays vibrant for generations to come. Preparing our local residents for careers in high-growth fields like precision manufacturing is one of the best ways to do that, which is why I will continue to champion it in the legislature.

Eric Lesser is State Senator for the First Hampden & Hampshire District.

Sen. Lesser co-sponsors bill to close offshore corporate tax loophole

BOSTON–In support of small businesses in his district and around the Commonwealth, Sen. Lesserhas  supported a bill that could recover more than $79 million in annual tax revenue by closing an offshore corporate tax loophole.

The bill, SD1699/H2477, requires multinational corporations to report profits deposited oversees as domestic taxable income.

“Small businesses–not multinational corporations–are the bedrock of the Western Massachusetts economy,” Lesser said.”Closing the offshore tax loophole reflects this reality, and has bipartisan support for a good reason.”

The average small business is paying $4000 in state and federal taxes to replace revenue lost due to corporate offshore tax havens, according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG).

1st Hampden-Hampshire District to Receive $8.3 Million in Ch. 90 Road Funding

EAST LONGMEADOW–The nine cities and towns in the First Hampden and Hampshire district are slated to receive more than $8.3 million in Ch. 90 road repair funds, state Senator Eric Lesser announced today.

“After the Legislature’s vote to approve statewide Chapter 90 road funding, I’m excited to announce the amounts allocated to each community in the First Hampden and Hampshire district,” Lesser said.

The allocations are as follows:

Belchertown $630,962
Chicopee $1,203,538
East Longmeadow $588,422
Granby $280,923
Hampden $255,986
Longmeadow $476,781
Ludlow $701,753
Springfield $3,647,523
Wilbraham $549,446

 

 

Western Mass Students Gather for 68th Annual Student Government Day

State Senator Eric P. Lesser greeted students participating in the 68th Annual Student Government Day (SGD), held today at the State House.

“I am inspired by this group of talented, impassioned young leaders,” Lesser said. “Each of them has something special to contribute, and I hope this event encourages them to consider pursuing a career in public service.”

This year’s event was attended by 413 students, including 15 from the 1st Hampden and Hampshire District. Participants conducted simulations of committee hearings and legislative sessions, and debated two House bills, HB.322, “An Act to establish a new high school diploma,” and HB.367, “An Act for mandatory Physical Education for all students grades K-12.”

Many participants took on the role of state senators and representatives, while others represented justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, constitutional officers, and the Lieutenant Governor.

Each year on election day, high schools across the Commonwealth elect a student designee and alternate that will participate in the coming year’s Student Government Day.

This year’s SGD participants from the First Hampden and Hampshire district are listed below:

 

Belchertown High School

Benjamin Stone

Alison Laughner

Chicopee Comprehensive High School

Briana O’Connell

Morin Kyleigh

Granby Junior Senior High School

Jillian Harrington

Joseph Mercier

Longmeadow High School

Madeleine Aseltine

Ludlow High School

Elizabeth Skaza

Nicholas St. Pierre

Minnechaug Regional High School

Viviana Angel

Emma Tynan

Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School

Todd Morehouse

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School

William Maldonado

SABIS International Charter School

Brian LaValley

Catherine Lupien*

*Assigned as Senator Eric Lesser

Western Mass Receives $90,000 in Crime Prevention Funds

BOSTON—State Senator Eric P. Lesser announced that Springfield, Ludlow, and Granby are slated to receive funding from the Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to support local activities to prevent and control crime.

“Crime prevention is paramount not only to our public safety, but also to the economic prosperity of our community,” Senator Lesser said. “This grant comes at an important time as budgets are tight, and will give much-needed help to our local police officers.”

$30,000 in grant funds were allotted to Springfield and Ludlow, along with $29,181 to Granby.

State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst) praised the funding as a boost to ongoing crime prevention efforts.

“I am so happy for the release of this funding, which will help Granby and the surrounding area build stronger, safer communities,” said Rep. Ellen Story. “Our local law enforcement can always benefit from added support.”

State Representative Thomas M. Petrolati (D-Ludlow) said the grant comes at an ideal time for law enforcement officials in Ludlow.

“The monies provided will bring additional assistance to the Ludlow Police Department, and also allow continuity in the continuation of the various crime prevention programs dependent on grants such as these to survive,” he said.

The JAG Program provides critical funding necessary in support of crime control and prevention, including law enforcement; prosecution and court programs; prevention and education programs; corrections and community corrections; drug treatment and enforcement; crime victim and witness initiatives; and planning, evaluation, and technology improvement programs.

A Passover tradition for the White House: Campaign aide turned Mass. lawmaker helped inspire Obama’s Seders

By Joshua Miller

The Boston Globe

April 02, 2015

SPRINGFIELD — The story of how state Senator Eric Lesser will celebrate Passover in the White House with President Obama Friday begins where few grand tales do: in a dim basement room of a Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pa.

During the Pennsylvania primary, one of the toughest patches of the 2008 presidential contest, Lesser and other Obama campaign aides organized an impromptu Passover Seder there and were joined by a surprise guest. In the years since, the President, who is Christian, has not only brought the yearly ceremony to the White House, but makes a point of participating and including Lesser and other members of the original crew.

So Lesser, after doing the mundane work of a backbench legislator this week — huddling with staff about the closure of a small bridge, talking with a constituent about arts programs, fielding budget queries — will head to Washington and is set to break bread, matzo, with the commander-in-chief in another chapter of an unlikely story.

For Lesser, 30, the annual Seder serves as a marker of his life’s rapid progression from young campaign aide to Massachusetts’ youngest state senator, now married, with a daughter.

At the 2009 Seder, the first one in the White House, he was single and brought his father to the dinner. At the time, he was working as the special assistant for David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser and strategist.

In 2011, Lesser was working for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and brought Alison Silber, his then-fiancee. She was his guest again in 2012, months after they were married, and when he was a first-year Harvard Law School student.

And in 2014, amid Lesser’s state Senate campaign, the Longmeadow couple brought along their young daughter, Rose.

After the president, first lady, and about 20 guests worked their way through a Haggadah, the Passover service text, some of the dinner discussion turned to a certain Springfield-area election.

“At one point, the president started asking him about how the campaign was going,” said Newton native Herbie Ziskend, one of the young coorganizers of the original Seder and an attendee every year since.

“It felt a little bit like getting pee-wee football coaching from Tom Brady,” Lesser said in Springfield this week. “But he is a former state senator himself. He is familiar with how a state senate campaign operates.”

Lesser said Obama told him to knock on every door and talk to as many people as he could one-on-one. (Lesser ended up winning the open seat in a district that includes some of Springfield and Chicopee and seven nearby towns.)

The elegant presidential surroundings are a far cry from the group’s original Seder in 2008.

That year, in the midst of the tough Democratic primary campaign in Pennsylvania, it wasn’t practical for Lesser, Ziskend, and Arun Chaudhary, another Jewish staff member, to get home for the holiday, which commemorates the Israelite exodus from slavery in Egypt. So they threw together a Seder — with some emergency supplies, including matzo and kosher wine, procured by Lesser’s cousin in Philadelphia — and held it in the basement of a Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pa., in what Ziskend called “a little dark, not-that-nice room.”

It was originally going be just the three of them and a few other staff members. But then-US Senator Obama and others ended up joining.

The 2008 Seder ended, as many traditional Seders do, with the attendees raising their glasses and saying, in unison, “Next year in Jerusalem!” And then Obama added, “Next year in the White House.”

And so it was that the custom begun in Pennsylvania continued at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It has evolved a bit. In 2011, for instance, the attendees began reading the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of the Seder, in a nod to the universal message of a holiday that celebrates freedom from bondage.

On Friday, coorganizers Lesser (2008 Seder: luggage wrangler; now: state senator), Ziskend (2008: advance man; now: a director at an investment firm) and Chaudhary (2008: Obama’s videographer; now: a creative director at political communications firm) are set to return to the White House.

Beforehand, the three, who all worked in the administration during Obama’s first term, will huddle to practice helping to lead the evening’s activities.

“Eric leads us in the songs,” Chaudhary explained. “He and I do a lot of the explaining and traffic management, and Herbie does the holding up of stuff, like on the Seder plate.”

White House chefs do the cooking, including using some family recipes from participants. Last year’s menu included Passover foods such as gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzo balls, and kugel.

The Seder tradition is anchored in the retelling of the Exodus story. And for Lesser, retelling his own Passover story — how he came to celebrate with the president himself — has become something of a touchstone.

Earlier this week, Lesser regaled sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders at Heritage Academy, a Jewish community day school in Longmeadow, with his real-life tale of being part of history in 2008.

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State Senator Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, thanked students at Heritage Academy in Longmeadow for giving him a Seder plate on Tuesday.

Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe

He told them about campaign staff members, Jewish and not, making their way into the basement room. Just as they were about to start the service, they heard a familiar voice from the hallway.

“He popped his head in and said, ‘Hey, is this where the Seder is happening?’ And it was Barack Obama,” Lesser recalled.

Lesser, who is still a Harvard Law School student, explained how the tradition has continued and, in 2009, they “celebrated the first Seder in the White House in American history.”

He also chronicled that time the Seder was delayed when a participant had trouble getting a container of macaroons past the Secret Service. And talked about Malia and Sasha Obama usually finding the afikomen, a hidden piece of matzo that is a part of the Passover service.

The middle-schoolers were enthralled, peppered him with questions, and then presented him with a note and a decorated Seder plate to bring to the First Family.

He assured them he would deliver the items on Friday when he shows up at the White House, where the event is expected to be essentially the same.

But for one notable change.

“For an apolitical event,” Chaudhary said, “it’s ironic but very cool to have two elected officials there now.”

By which he meant: the leader of the free world and state Senator Eric Lesser.

Sen. Lesser votes to approve $200 million for road repairs

BOSTON–Sen. Eric Lesser voted Wed. to approve $200 million in funding for road repair projects throughout the Commonwealth.

“These funds will allow cities and towns to make desperately needed improvements to our pothole-laden roads,” Lesser said.

Paired with the additional $130 million Gov. Baker has already authorized, the approval represents a total of $330 million in Ch. 90 funds that will soon be available to cities and towns as they jumpstart road repair projects this spring.

To report a pothole or other road condition, residents should contact their local municipality. Links to all municipal websites in the First Hampden and Hampshire district can be found at http://senatorlesser.com/our-district/.