Month: July 2015

Sen. Lesser Votes in Favor of Senate Resolution Encouraging Greater Female Representation in Corporate Leadership

The state Senate unanimously voted this week in favor of a resolution encouraging fair and diverse gender representation on boards of companies in the Commonwealth. The legislation encouraging gender equity in corporate leadership was co-sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow).

“Women bring a unique and much-needed perspective to corporate decisions, whether in hiring, marketing or growth strategies,” Lesser said. “Greater gender diversity in corporate leadership results in more competitive and ultimately more successful companies.”

The resolution, sponsored by Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), encourages privately held and publicly traded companies in Massachusetts to have a minimum of three women directors on boards of nine or more and a minimum of two women directors on boards with fewer than nine directors by December 31, 2018.

It also asks companies to measure their progress toward a goal of equal representation of men and women in leadership positions on an annual basis.

Just 16 percent of corporate board seats nationally and less than 15 percent in Massachusetts are held by women. One-quarter of the largest companies in Massachusetts do not include any women on their boards of directors, according to data from The Boston Club, an organization of women executives and professionals in the Northeast region.

The resolution will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

Sen. Lesser signs letter supporting gender pay equity bill

Senator Lesser has signed a letter supporting “An act to establish pay equity,” introduced as S.983 and H.1733, to ensure that women are paid the same as men for comparable work.

Specifically, the bill:

  • prohibits companies from maintaining wage confidentiality policies or disciplining employees for discussing their salaries
  • lengthen the time an employee has to bring a pay discrimination suit from one to three years and allow for the awarding of attorneys’ fees
  • clarify that analysis of “comparable” work must be based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions
  • allow an employer to defend itself against gender discrimination claims if the company conducts a self-evaluation of workplace job classifications and wage rates.
  • require companies to post a minimum salary in job ads and pay any hire at least that amount and would make it illegal for an employer to use salary history in hiring.

An electronic version of the letter is available at the below link:

Sen. Lesser Equal Pay Letter

Sen. Lesser Secures Funding in State FY16 Budget for Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative Manufacturing Training Program

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the FY16 state budget, signed by Governor Baker, includes $214,000 to fund a Manufacturing Training Program run by the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC). Senator Lesser was successful in obtaining the $214,000 originally through an amendment that was approved by both branches of the Legislature.

“This funding will allow high school students from across the Pioneer Valley to receive top-level training in manufacturing and other technical skills, which are highly in demand in today’s economy,” Lesser said. “I’m glad the House, Senate and Governor stand with me on the importance of closing the manufacturing skills gap and revitalizing our regional economies.”

The program will allow the LPVEC to develop a machine technology program for students in grades 9-12 and will serve the school districts of Agawam, East Longmeadow, Hampden-Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Southwick-Tolland-Granville and West Springfield.

“Our member districts have supported this new program with significant local funds, but state-of-the-art equipment is expensive,” said Andrew Churchill, LPVEC Executive Director.  “We are very grateful for this additional state support, which will ensure that our students will graduate ready for our region’s cutting-edge manufacturers.”

There are 214 manufacturing companies whose principal place of business is located in school districts served by the LPVEC, creating opportunity to directly link students to job vacancies in their immediate area.

Lesser, who is Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, recently hosted a delegation of Senate members at EASTEC, a convention of over 500 manufacturing companies in the Northeast, at the Big E grounds in West Springfield. He also recently published an op-ed on the widening manufacturing skills gap in Massachusetts, especially in the Pioneer Valley.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Lesser Secures Funding in State FY16 Budget for Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative Manufacturing Training Program

Op-ed: Tourism, arts and culture are important economic engines

In MassLive 7/27/15

As we enter the dog days of summer and start packing our bags for family vacations, it’s a good time to remember all the great attractions that we have right in our backyard. From Six Flags to the Quabbin Reservoir, from Yankee Candle to the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Pioneer Valley has some of the most popular destinations in New England.

These attractions are more than just a fun place to spend the day; they help make up Massachusetts’ third largest industry, employing 130,000 people and producing $18 billion in revenue a year.

For this reason, I was eager to be appointed Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, which is responsible for overseeing and supporting such a vital segment of the Commonwealth’s economy.

Tourism, arts and culture is especially important to our economy here in Western Massachusetts. Every year, thousands of people visit Hampden and Hampshire Counties for work, vacation, or family. Tourism­ related employment in our region alone totals nearly 5,000 people, with a payroll of more than $120 million annually. Direct spending by travelers in our region is over $500 million, resulting in over $11 million for our local communities. And with the MGM Casino, the new Dr. Seuss Museum, and the opening of new rides at Six Flags New England, not to mention the renovation of Springfield’s Union Station with new rail service, we can only expect that number to grow.

But our ability to attract visitors and the dollars they bring with them is not something we can take for granted. We’ve all seen the billboards as we drive along I­91 inviting us to ski resorts in Vermont and casinos in Connecticut. Our neighboring states are competing hard for tourism and culture dollars, and if we don’t keep up, we risk falling behind, and losing a lot of economic opportunity in the process.

That’s why my committee worked to secure millions of dollars in new resources for our tourism and culture economy. In this year’s budget, we increased funds for the promotion of local attractions like Bright Nights and the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden. I also collaborated with my colleagues in the House and Senate to secure a multi­million dollar increase for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which supports local institutions like the Community Music School, the Enchanted Circle Theater, the Quadrangle Museums and the emerging Springfield Cultural District.

These initiatives add vibrancy to our region and attract more visitors to our area. And when it comes to tourism, arts and cultural development, the investment more than pays for itself. According to the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, every dollar spent on tourism promotion can produce a seven dollar return on investment. That’s because visitors do more than just stop our attractions, they also eat at our local restaurants, stay in our local hotels, and shop in our local stores.

So as we get out and enjoy our summer vacations, let’s also keep in mind how important all the attractions are right in our own backyard, and what an important role they play in creating jobs and driving our local economy.

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

Senator Lesser Votes to Expand Solar Power

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted Thursday in favor of a climate change preparedness bill that included a measure to further incentivize the expansion of solar electricity in Massachusetts.

“This common-sense measure will allow people to use more clean energy in their homes and incentivize the use of solar power,” Lesser said. “It’s an important step in our efforts to expand sustainable energy sources and ensure Massachusetts stays on the leading edge of climate change policy.”

The amendment, introduced by Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and attached to a broader climate change preparedness bill authored by Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), would lift the cap to 1,600 megawatts of solar power, consistent with the goal set by former Governor Deval Patrick to develop 1,600 megawatts of solar power by 2020. Governor Charlie Baker is in support of the state’s goal as well.

The measure received bipartisan support and the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), calling it a “prudent course of action,” during the Senate debate.

Net metering, which allows utility customers with solar panels to sell power back to the grid at retail rates, is one of the incentives offered to encourage clean energy production. The current caps limit solar development to 4 percent of peak electricity load for private projects and 5 percent for public projects, with no limit on residential projects.

Starting with only a couple of megawatts of solar production in 2007, solar energy in Massachusetts now totals roughly 860 megawatts.

The climate change preparedness bill will now move to the House for consideration and debate.

Sen. Eric Lesser Announces $53,000 Green Community Grant for Town Of Belchertown

State Senator Eric P. Lesser announced that the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has awarded the Town of Belchertown $53,022 to fund improvements aimed at reducing fuel consumption for town vehicles and increasing energy efficiency for town buildings.

“This grant is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of Belchertown, including reducing its energy consumption, purchasing efficient vehicles and amending its building code to the latest standards,” Lesser said. “These funds will continue to position Belchertown as a leader in clean energy.”

The grant will fund the installation of an Electronic Fuel Management System and software for municipal vehicles, as well as the establishment of a behavioral-based energy program.

It will also fund the installation of a new efficient boiler at Old Town Hall and installation of new exterior storm windows at the Freedom Center Building and Recreation Center Building.

“Belchertown has invested nearly 4 million dollars in energy efficiency projects over the past 5 years, resulting in nearly $300,000 in annual savings and a considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gary Brougham, Belchertown Town Administrator. “These additional funds will provide additional savings and a greater reduction in emissions. We greatly appreciate the continuing support of the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.”

“The awarding of this grant continues to give a community like Belchertown an alternative energy source,” said Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow). “It will help to defray the rising costs that are incurred by traditional energy sources. Belchertown continues to be a leader in finding cost-efficient and energy-saving alternatives.”

“I would like to thank the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for this funding and congratulate Belchertown on their receipt of this award.  Any initiative that reduces consumption and saves our communities money is a winner,” said Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol).

Grant recipients are required to adopt an expedited permit process for renewable energy facilities, develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years, purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles and set requirements to minimize energy costs for new construction.

Sen. Lesser Secures Increased Funding for Manufacturing Jobs Training in State Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate have included $1.535 million for a precision manufacturing training program in the 2016 state budget, signed by Governor Baker. The significant increase originated from an amendment to the Senate budget filed by Senator Lesser.

“Western Massachusetts has been left out of the red-hot economy in the eastern part of the state,” Lesser said. “But there is a path to reinvest in the middle class—and that’s to marry up our traditional history as a manufacturing center with the intellectual firepower of our schools and training centers. This funding supports a successful pilot program focused on training individuals in the high growth precision manufacturing sector.”

Over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers, despite the fact that the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000.

The budget increases line item funding to $1.535 million, a total increase of $675,000 from last year. Senator Lesser filed an amendment in the most recent Senate budget to increase the initial funding amount by $500,000, which was successful.

In the Pioneer Valley, the precision manufacturing pilot program has resulted in an exciting partnership between the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. Together these organizations are working with local community colleges, vocational schools and advanced manufacturing companies to train unemployed and under-employed individuals, career changers and youth across the region. Last year this program received 146 applications and was only able to accept 37 participants into the program, which is underway now, but needs funding to continue.

In May of this year Senator Lesser gave his maiden speech to the Senate on his amendment, calling the Pioneer Valley “a manufacturing hub for 10 generations,” but said our region must work to keep pace with rapid shifts in advanced manufacturing practices and international markets.

Lesser, who is Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, recently hosted a delegation of Senate members at EASTEC, a convention of over 500 manufacturing companies in the Northeast, at the Big E grounds in West Springfield. He also recently published an op-ed on the widening manufacturing skills gap in Massachusetts, especially in the Pioneer Valley.

Sen. Lesser Substance Abuse Bills included in House and Senate Compromise Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate accepted a compromise version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which included his proposals to close the pharmacy shopping loophole for highly addictive narcotics and to create a bulk-purchasing program for the anti-overdose drug Narcan. These measures aim to combat the opioid addiction crisis plaguing Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole. Last year, over 1,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid overdoses.

“Both of these initiatives provide targeted solutions to a nationwide problem – opioid addiction – that has disproportionately hurt our corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lesser. “With a simple shift to more frequent pharmacy reporting and the establishment of Narcan bulk-purchasing in Massachusetts, we’ll be able to spot addicts before an overdose happens and equip municipalities and their first responders with a potentially lifesaving drug.”

In January of this year, Senator Lesser filed An Act preventing prescription drug abuse by closing the pharmacy shopping loophole. This bill would reduce the length of time pharmacies must report the prescription of highly addictive narcotics from 7 days to 24-hours. Also in January, Senator Lesser filed An Act to improve the accessibility and affordability of naloxone and other pharmaceutical drugs of public health concern. This bill served as a blueprint for the Senate’s proposal to establish a statewide bulk-purchasing program of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. The bulk-purchasing program is meant to curb dramatic increases in the drug’s cost, just as it is most needed to combat the opiate epidemic.

Over the course of the last six months, Senator Lesser’s initiatives have gained the support of Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Senate President Rosenberg and other legislative leaders. Both of Senator Lesser’s policy proposals were included in Governor Baker’s Opioid Working Group recommendations for combating substance abuse. The Senate’s version of the FY16 state budget also included both proposals. A February 2015 report by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program included Senator Lesser’s pharmacy shopping legislation in its list of recommendations as well.

The FY 16 compromise budget also includes provisions that:

  • Allocate $100,000 for the administration of a Narcan bulk-purchasing program;
  • Establish a multi-agency task force to review opportunities to negotiate bulk-purchasing discounts for non-Medicaid prescription drugs; and
  • Direct Medicaid and state agencies to identify cost-saving measures, including bulk purchasing consortiums, to curb unsustainable increases in prescription drug costs for all residents beyond Narcan.

The compromise budget will now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.