Month: October 2015

Sen. Lesser Visits Granby Senior Center

Sen. Eric Lesser visited the Granby Senior Center Friday, Oct. 30 to meet with local residents and listen to their concerns and ideas for improving their community.

“As state Senator, one of my favorite parts of the job is meeting directly with the constituents I am elected to represent,” Sen. Lesser said. “I learn so much from these conversations and bring the comments and concerns I receive back to State House with me. I was also excited to visit Granby during the Annual Halloween Costume Party!”

During his visit, Sen. Lesser helped judge the center’s Halloween contest, won by local resident Sandra Kadle.

A member of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Sen. Lesser recently published an op-ed that recommends ways to better support senior citizens in Western Massachusetts, and addressed the ongoing need for high-quality senior facilities.

“Senior centers make our communities more attractive places to live and allow people to remain in their homes longer, enhancing our neighborhoods and property values,” he wrote.

“By 2035, nearly a third of Massachusetts residents will be over 60. These demographics are even more pronounced in Western Mass, which is older than the state as a whole. Policymakers need to be prepared for this change,” he added.

Sen. Eric Lesser Named as Finalist of “NewDEAL New Ideas Challenge”

Sen. Eric P. Lesser has been named a finalist of the “New Ideas Challenge” sponsored by NewDEAL, a national organization for young elected officials supporting new ideas at the state and local level.

“I’m excited that this idea is gaining national attention, since it puts an even bigger spotlight on the unique needs of Western Massachusetts and similar regions throughout the country,” Sen. Lesser said.

“As a former Governor, I know that the best ideas about moving our country forward often come from innovators on the front lines of state and local government. I’m excited by the fresh thinking demonstrated by NewDEAL Leaders through the Ideas Challenge and excited to see their ideas put into action,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Honorary NewDEAL Co-Chair.

Sen. Lesser’s idea, modeled after his own legislation sponsored in the Massachusetts Senate, offers a 10 percent tax credit, up to $100,000 per year, to investors who fund high-tech small businesses located in Gateway Cities, including Springfield and Chicopee. The aim is to boost entrepreneurship and economic growth in areas outside traditional tech centers. The bill had a public hearing June 30 and awaits action by the Joint Committee on Revenue.

“A high-tech business tax credit is exactly the type of innovative policymaking needed to make strong economic progress in Springfield and our surrounding communities,” Sen. Lesser said.

In his submission, Senator Lesser cited Springfield-based organizations such as Tech Foundry, Bay State Health’s TechSpring, Valley Venture Mentors and River Valley Investors as “leading examples of a startup ecosystem that this bill will support, nurture and grow.”

The New Ideas Challenge is a national contest that recognizes innovative policies being developed by state and local leaders. Sen. Lesser was among 18 finalists chosen out of nearly 70 applicants. More information on the contest and finalists can be found here: newde.al/15finalists

Op-ed: Ensuring our seniors age with dignity

In MassLive 10/26/15

During a recent visit to the Ludlow Senior Center, I spent time chatting with local residents about everything from new grandchildren to the rising cost of prescription drugs.

These conversations are important, especially since our Commonwealth’s population is aging at a rapid pace. By 2035, nearly a third of Massachusetts residents will be over 60. These demographics are even more pronounced in Western Mass, which is older than the state as a whole. Policymakers need to be prepared for this change.

That’s why I joined the Legislature’s Committee on Elder Affairs. In my role on that committee, I regularly talk with seniors in our area. The main lesson I’ve learned is that seniors and their families require special attention and creative approaches from their elected leaders.

In Belchertown, for example, I spoke with a woman from the Pine Valley Plantation, a senior housing community, who was concerned about prescription drug costs and limited transportation. At a community dinner at the Hampden Senior Center, I spoke with families doing their best to care for aging parents.

One of the most important ways to support seniors and their families is ensuring each community has a high-quality senior center. These facilities serve as one-stop locations for everything from daily meals to health screenings, exercise classes and transportation. They make our communities more attractive places to live and allow people to remain in their homes longer, enhancing our neighborhoods and property values.

New senior centers in Chicopee, East Longmeadow and other communities do a great job of providing these vital services, but we can do more to bring them to all residents regardless of where they live. As a significant first step, I co-sponsored a successful budget amendment that brought a large funding increase to our Councils on Aging, who organize and run each community senior center. I’m also a strong supporter of the new Springfield Senior Center being built near Blunt Park.

In addition, I know that many seniors are worried about housing costs. That’s why I’ve worked closely with town, state and private sector officials on a new senior housing development in the Ludlow Mills, and support the eventual development of senior housing at the former State School site in Belchertown.

Many seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible, but have a hard time accessing vital healthcare and home support services. To help, I’m supporting a Senate bill that takes steps to improve the quality of these services, including Alzheimer’s care and physical therapy.

On a visit to the East Longmeadow Senior Center, I rode along with a Meals on Wheels volunteer, delivering dozens of meals to homebound seniors. Along the way I had the chance to chat with many of the meal recipients and hear a bit about their lives. We certainly have a lot to learn from our seniors – they’ve spent a lifetime living and working in our communities.

It’s our solemn obligation to ensure that all members of our community age with dignity. Everyone has a role to play, including our policy-makers at the State House.

Senator Eric P. Lesser is a member of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, which reviews and promotes policies affecting seniors in the Commonwealth.

Sen. Lesser Nominates Springfield and Wilbraham residents for 75th Citizens’ Legislative Seminar

Two Western Massachusetts residents nominated by Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) participated in the 75th Annual Citizens’ Legislative Seminar, held this week at the State House.

“This seminar is a great opportunity for Massachusetts residents to see firsthand how our state government works,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m proud to have nominated two community leaders who will use these lessons to encourage more residents to take an active role in their communities and in our Commonwealth.”

“I’ve learned so much from this seminar, and am excited to bring all this information and energy back to Springfield,” said Jean Canosa Albano, Manager of Public Services at the Springfield City Library and a resident of Wilbraham.

“This seminar was an eye-opener for me, and will serve as a strong motivator for anyone looking to play an active role in improving our communities,” said Linda Matys O’Connell, a member of the Springfield Unit of the Northampton Area League of Women Voters and a resident of Springfield.

Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, the two-day seminar features presentations by Senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth.

Seminar activities included an overview of the history and process of the legislature, and discussion on how to make one’s voice heard in the legislative process. The seminar culminated with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session where participants are invited to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.

Senator Eric Lesser Votes to Pass Worker Protection Legislation

BOSTON–Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted in support of three successful Senate bills Thursday that enhance compensation and protections for Massachusetts workers.

“These initiatives make significant improvements for workers across the Commonwealth by expanding workers’ compensation and giving the Attorney General greater authority to represent workers in cases of employment law violations,” Sen. Lesser said.

The first bill, An Act relative to fairness in workers’ compensation disfigurement benefits, expands workers’ compensation to apply to cases of scar-based disfigurement on any part of the body, rather than only on the head and neck. It also increases the maximum benefit for this type of disfigurement to 22.5 times the state average weekly wage, an increase over the previous flat rate of $15,000.

The second bill, An Act relative to enhanced enforcement of civil penalties, authorizes the Attorney General to seek damages or lost wages on behalf of workers for violations of employment law.

The two bills passed the Senate and now move to the House for consideration.

Sen. Lesser also voted in support of a successful measure to bring the Commonwealth into compliance with the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. This change will allow Massachusetts to qualify for more federal workforce development funds. The bill passed in the House earlier this month and now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature into law.

Senator Eric Lesser Meets With Constituents at Ludlow Senior Center

Senator Lesser visited the Ludlow Senior Center Friday, Oct. 16 to hold “office hours,” giving area residents the opportunity to speak with the Senator about the issues that matter most to them.

“The most important thing I can do as a Senator is to listen,” Senator Lesser said. “These office hours give me a great opportunity to hear from constituents about the issues impacting them and their communities, which are all things I’ll bring back with me to the State House.”

Topics of discussion raised during Senator Lesser’s Ludlow visit included taxes, cost of health insurance and the importance of completing repairs to the East Street Bridge, which serves as a crucial route to Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer and connects area residents to the MassPike and the greater Springfield area.

Earlier this year, Senator Lesser joined with Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Thomas Petrolati to secure the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s approval of $1 million in state and federal money for the repair of the bridge.

“Funding for repairs to the East Street bridge is great news for the people of Ludlow, and I will continue to work diligently with MassDOT to ensure that the project is completed in as timely a manner as possible,” Senator Lesser said.

Senator Lesser’s Amendment Supporting Public Art Passes in Massachusetts Senate

Senator Eric P. Lesser, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, sponsored a successful amendment to the Commonwealth’s FY’15 supplemental budget Thursday that strengthens and expands the Massachusetts Percent for Art Program (MPAP).

“The arts deserve a prominent place in our communities, especially in public spaces where they can be enjoyed by all residents and visitors,” Senator Lesser said. “My amendment, which was adopted unanimously by my Senate colleagues, ensures that public art plays an active role in all areas of the Commonwealth.”

“Today’s action by the Senate illustrates that the preservation of public art and investment in our creative economy remains an important priority,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  “Expanding the MPAP program statewide puts Massachusetts in line with other New England states and ensures investments in public art for the future.”

Under the current MPAP program, if there is construction or substantial renovation of any state-owned building or property, a fixed percentage of the cost of that construction or substantial renovation will be dedicated to the creation or preservation of public art.

Senator Lesser’s successful amendment extends the MPAP program to the entire Commonwealth, a change from the original legislation which only applied to Boston and “Gateway Cities.” The amendment also states that the program does not apply unless the construction project totals at least $4 million, and that the amount designated to the program cannot exceed 0.5 percent of the total project cost or $250,000, whichever is least.

According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 27 states and territories have some active version of “percent for art” programs, including every New England state except Massachusetts. Nearly all of these programs have a similar structure to the one passed through Senator Lesser’s amendment.

Senator Eric Lesser Votes With Senate to Approve Substance Abuse Bill

Senator Eric Lesser voted in favor of a bipartisan substance abuse bill passed by the Senate that includes several provisions for addressing the opioid addiction crisis plaguing many parts of the Commonwealth.

“This legislation offers common-sense protocols to limit access to highly addictive pills, hold drug companies more accountable for the effects of prescription drugs, and stem the tide of opioid addiction,” Senator Lesser said.

The opioid crisis has been one of Senator Lesser’s top priorities since assuming office. He said he was particularly affected by a story from Maureen Rooney, a Ludlow resident whose son developed an addiction to OxyContin and eventually to heroin.

“As his mother, it has been heartbreaking to watch my sensitive, funny, bright child throw away a productive life to drugs,” Rooney said in written testimony.

Senator Lesser also secured passage of an amendment he authored to further strengthen reporting and enforcement requirements for highly addictive prescription painkillers.

The Senate’s substance abuse bill was based on recommendations made by the Special Committee on Opioid Addiction, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options, of which Senator Lesser is a member.

Key provisions in the legislation include:

  • allowing patients to file a medical directive to avoid receiving opiate painkillers,
  • granting doctors access to data comparing their prescribing practices to their peers,
  • requiring drug manufacturers to set up drug take-back programs,
  • supporting public education efforts on the risks and dangers of prescription drug addiction, and
  • requiring insurance carriers to develop alternative pain management options for patients and to make the information public.

Nearly 1,300 people in Massachusetts died of an unintentional opiate-related overdose last year, representing a nearly 60 percent increase since 2012. Opioids now kill more people in Massachusetts than car accidents and guns combined.

The bill will now head to the House for consideration.

###