Month: March 2016

Sen. Eric P. Lesser Hosts Massachusetts Cultural Council on Tour of Springfield’s Cultural District

Senator Eric P. Lesser hosted a walking tour this week of the Springfield Central Cultural District with Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The tour was part of a day-long visit to the region by Walker, with the aim of highlighting the growing arts and culture economy in Springfield.

“We know investment in the tourism, arts and culture industry pays multiple returns to the Commonwealth and to our communities,” Sen. Lesser said. “This week’s tour showed just how valuable Springfield is to Western Massachusetts and to the entire New England Region. When budgets are tight, it’s important to put money where there’s the greatest bang for our buck, and in Massachusetts, that means investing in tourism and the arts.”

“A good place to live is a good place to visit,” Walker said. “The clear vision and contagious enthusiasm I saw in Springfield this week is propelling this city forward. With the continued support of Sen. Lesser and the Legislature, we can accomplish great things for this community and the local economy.”

The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of local communities.

The tour was led by Morgan Drewniany, Executive Director of the Springfield Central Cultural District. Stops included the Springfield Museums, Springfield City Library, New England Public Radio, MassMutual Center’s Art Gallery, the Community Music School of Springfield and Symphony Hall. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and members of the Springfield Cultural District Board also participated.

“I’m very grateful to Senator Lesser for his continued efforts to translate arts, culture and tourism initiatives into economic development opportunities, creating vibrancy and improving ‘quality of life’ aspects. He gets it!  I’m also always glad to have Anita Walker here too – she’s been a great partner and proponent of the benefits that arts and culture can continue to bring to a city,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said.

The Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD) covers a scenic walkable area located in and around Stearns Square. Its mission is to highlight Springfield’s many outstanding cultural offerings and provide creative opportunities for artists and the greater community.

Sen. Lesser serves as the Senate Chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

Senators Eric Lesser and Ryan Fattman Publish Bipartisan Op-Ed on Importance of Engaging Millennials in Government

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) and Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Webster) today released a joint op-ed as part of the Massachusetts Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative. The Millennial Engagement Initiative, co-chaired by Senator Lesser and Senator Fattman, was announced earlier this month by Senate President Stan Rosenberg. The initiative aims to encourage more millennials to become involved in the legislative process.

The op-ed, which argues for the importance of listening to the needs and ideas of young people, outlines both Senator Fattman and Lesser’s own experience entering politics at a young age. The op-ed also outlines many of the challenges facing millennials today, including stagnant incomes, student debt and the lack of affordable housing.

“Our generation is highly diverse, service oriented, and tech-savvy. Those qualities are essential for a well-functioning society. The Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative aims to start a dialogue that enables young people to see government as both a partner and a solution to public problems,” Sen. Lesser said.

“It is a pleasure of mine to serve on the Millennial Engagement Tour. Being a millennial, it has been a great opportunity to interact and understand issues that young people care about, which will make the Commonwealth a better place as a whole,” Sen. Fattman said.

Millennials, or those born after 1980, are now the largest and most diverse generation in the United States. While a large portion of millennials are heavily involved in community service, a recent Harvard University survey found that only seven percent of millennials reported having participated in government.

The Millennial Engagement Initiative will hold a series of events across the Commonwealth in the coming weeks.

Sen. Eric Lesser’s East-West Passenger Rail Bill Receives Favorable Recommendation by Transportation Committee

A bill filed by Sen. Eric P. Lesser calling for a feasibility study of passenger rail service between Springfield and Boston was given a positive recommendation by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee on Friday.

“Today’s favorable vote by the Transportation Committee is an important step forward for this bipartisan legislation. East-west rail will open new opportunities for our families, businesses and communities and will spur new economic growth in Springfield and the entire region. I’m grateful for the Transportation Committee’s support, and look forward to continuing work with my colleagues on this vital legislation,” said Sen. Lesser, who is also a member of the Transportation Committee and voted in favor of the bill.

“It is important that we not only address the immediate needs of our transportation system, but also continue to think about the long-term opportunities of investment in statewide expansion projects,” said Senator Thomas M. McGee, Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. “Projects such as this one are vital to our economy and have the potential to more easily connect people to jobs, educational institutions, and medical facilities.”

“Exploring the idea of rail service between Springfield and Boston will promote the region and all it has to offer,” said Rep. William Straus, House Chair of the Transportation Committee.

The bill, which was heard by the Transportation Committee in late February, has received bipartisan support from legislators throughout the Commonwealth.

Following the positive vote from the Transportation Committee, the bill will need to pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and be signed into law by Governor Baker.

Sen. Lesser’s bill enjoys bipartisan support from both legislative chambers, including Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas McGee, and Sens. James Welch, Donald Humason, Jr., Benjamin Downing, Anne Gobi and Ryan Fattman in the Senate.

In the House, Sen. Lesser’s bill is co-sponsored by Chairman Joseph Wagner, and Reps. Aaron Vega, Carlos Gonzalez, Brian Ashe, Jose Tosado, Thomas Petrolati, Benjamin Swan, Angelo Puppolo, Jr., John Scibak, John Velis, Ellen Story, Michael J. Finn, Peter V. Kocot, William Smitty Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Antonio F. D. Cabral, and Chris Walsh in the House.

Currently, the fastest existing passenger rail link from Springfield to Boston, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited, only runs once a day and takes 135 minutes. Improvements to the existing infrastructure could mean trains running at 70 mph or higher, cutting travel times down to 90 minutes, with multiple departures per day.

Recent discussion of east-west rail comes at a crucial point for economic development in Western Massachusetts.

An $83 million renovation of Union Station is expected to be completed by the end of this year, which will serve as a new transit hub, combining North-South and East-West rail with regional and intercity bus service.

In addition, the reconstruction of the “Knowledge Corridor” and the pending completion of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail project will bring a steady flow of rail passengers through Springfield. Downtown Springfield is also expected to attract thousands of new visitors due to upcoming openings of the MGM Springfield casino and the Dr. Seuss Museum, along with the establishment of both the Springfield Cultural and Innovation Districts.

Sen. Lesser has made east-west rail a high legislative priority, and wrote an op-ed on the issue during his 2014 state Senate campaign.

Sen. Eric Lesser Votes With Senate to Pass Bills Addressing Persons with Disabilities

Sen. Eric P. Lesser voted with the Massachusetts Senate this week to pass numerous bills aimed at improving quality of life for persons with disabilities.

“More than 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, our Commonwealth and country has made significant progress in ensuring equal opportunity and treatment for persons with disabilities,” Sen. Lesser said. “These bills passed by Senate has set an example for building upon the ADA’s strong foundation, and for continuing to help remove barriers preventing people with disabilities from reaching their full potential to live healthy, productive and satisfying lives.”

The first bill, An Act Eliminating Archaic Language Pertaining to Individuals with Disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, updates the language in current laws referring to persons with disabilities (for example, changing “mentally retarded” to “individuals with a developmental disability”).  While these changes may seem minor to the general public, they carry deep personal significance to the disabled community.

The second bill, An Act Eliminating Health Disparities in the Commonwealth, establishes an Office of Health Equity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to study health and healthcare disparities as a result of an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender or disability.

A third bill, An Act Relative to the Hiring of Persons with a disability, requires the development of standards to identify and recruit qualified applicants with disabilities. The bill also requires that all state employees involved in hiring decisions are trained and educated pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition, An Act Relative to the Architectural Access Board gives greater authority to the regulatory board that develops and enforces regulations designed to make public buildings accessible and safe for persons with disabilities, including the use of spaces around buildings, such as parking lots, passageways, and sidewalks.

“These bills make strong progress to support those with disabilities by removing barriers and bringing greater dignity and respect in the written law,” Sen. Lesser said.

Massachusetts Senate Holds Twitter Town Hall, College Student Roundtable As Part of Outreach to Millennials

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Senator Lesser Visits Michael’s House

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