Month: July 2016

Senator Lesser Votes for Civic Education for Youth

BOSTON- Senator Lesser voted for the S.2253, An Act to involve youth in civic engagement, which requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop model curricula to teach students about civics and establishes an advisory committee of young people to review the curriculum.

“A healthy democracy needs citizens to be well-informed and engaged,” said Senator Lesser. “Improving civic education in our public schools will ensure young people have the knowledge and understanding of government, history and the electoral process necessary to be engaged and empowered citizens.”

The bill requires that the model curriculum cover the function and composition of the branches of local, state, and federal government, the history of social movements, current events, and community-based action and service-learning projects. The model curriculum will include an experiential or practical unit, which can include a weekend program, a model United Nations, or other such program promoting civic engagement, and it will conclude with a voter registration drive.

Senator Lesser is co-chair of the Massachusetts Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative, which aims to better connect State Government with the interests of young people, and is currently the youngest member of the State Senate.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Lesser Votes to Limit Drunk Driving in Massachusetts

BOSTON- This Saturday, July 23rd, Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to make roads safer from drunk drivers. The Senate passed S.2445, An Act Strengthening Public Safety by Reducing Unlicensed, Uninsured Driving by DUI Offenders, sponsored by Senator Timilty.

The bill requires those convicted of driving under the influence to have an ignition interlock device installed in their car, which would disable the car from starting unless the driver can pass a breathalyzer test. The bill removes the currently available option for a hardship license, which allows those who need vehicles to get to work to resume driving soon after their DUI.

“This is a common sense measure for public safety. It will prevent past offenders from getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated,” said Senator Lesser. “We owe it to our communities to do everything possible to stop drunk driving, and this initiative will go a long way.”

Instead of the current hardship license system, the Senate’s legislation requires any individual who wishes to operate their vehicle after a DUI conviction to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. This device is a portable breathalyzer that the driver has to blow in and register below the legal blood alcohol content level before the car is able to be started.

Further, the individual who is applying for the ignition interlock device is required to pay for the installation and maintenance of the device unless they can prove a grave and serious financial hardship on them or their family. This legislation was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Eric P. Lesser Congratulates Michelle LaValley on the Grand Re-Opening of Hair Studio One

LONGMEADOW- On Friday, July 22nd, Senator Eric Lesser presented Michelle LaValley, owner of Hair Studio One, with a citation from the Massachusetts Senate congratulating her on her new business. LaValley had worked as a stylist at the salon before buying it from Irene Dudek, its previous owner of 33 years.

“It’s great to see small business booming in Longmeadow,” said Senator Lesser. “Congratulations, Michelle, on your hard work and huge accomplishment!”

 

Sen. Eric P. Lesser Thanks Girls State and Girls Nation Participant Deirdre Duquette

LONGMEADOW- On Friday, July 22nd, Senator Eric Lesser presented Deirdre Duquette with a citation from the Senate for her involvement in civic engagement. Deirdre is a junior at Longmeadow High who was elected Attorney General at Massachusetts Girls State and was chosen to represent Massachusetts at Girls Nation in Washington, DC this summer.

“Students like Deirdre will be the next generation of public service in Massachusetts,” said Senator Lesser. “I was happy to present her with this citation, and I can’t wait to see where she goes next.”

Senator Lesser is the co-chair of the Millennial Engagement Initiative, which works to get young people involved in State government and make State government more responsive to their needs.

 

Senator Lesser Votes for Equal Pay for Women

BOSTON- Senator Lesser voted on Saturday, July 22nd on the final version of legislation aimed at closing the wage gap between men and women. The legislation, which Senator Lesser co-sponsored, is now on the Governor’s desk for signature into law. It passed the Senate unanimously.

For every dollar men earn in Massachusetts, women earn 84 cents for comparable work. A report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projects that the gender wage gap in Massachusetts will not close on its own until 2058.

“It’s not fair for women to be paid less than men for doing the same work,” said Senator Lesser. “This legislation gives women the tools they need to demand equality in the workplace, and will go a long way towards closing the wage gap.”

The bill, S.2107, sponsored by Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), seeks to bridge the wage gap by ensuring equal pay for comparable work, establishing pay transparency and requiring fairness in hiring practices.

The bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor including seniority, and further prohibits a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue, education, training or experience.

The bill incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating a three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period, employers must complete a self-evaluation of their pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities. It also prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law, and prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

Senator Lesser voted to pass an earlier version of the pay equity bill in January, 2016. He also co-sponsored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and legislation to create a commission on women and girls for Hampden County. He wrote an op-ed on this work and gender equality more broadly for the Springfield Republican in May of last year.

The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Senator Lesser Votes to Support Road and Bridge Repairs in Massachusetts

BOSTON- Senator Lesser voted on Saturday to authorize bonds to fund repairs of roads and bridges across the Commonwealth. The Senate unanimously passed S.2455, An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads and Bridges, offered by Governor Baker. The bill authorizes $800 million in financing for road and bridge repairs.

“Whether it’s on the way to work, the supermarket, or an emergency, road disrepair can disrupt life and business in Western Massachusetts,” said Senator Lesser. “I’m glad that the Senate has this opportunity to help municipalities make transportation easier and safer for the Commonwealth.”

The Senate bill provides bond authorization in the amount of $750 million for federally funded state and interstate highways systems for engineering and other services essential to the project. It also provides bond authorization in the amount of $50 million for the design, construction or repair to non-federally funded bridges that are no longer than 20 feet.

This program will uniquely serve Western Massachusetts. Small bridges in particular are often overlooked but extremely important for connecting cities & towns to the regional economy of Western Massachusetts.

Senator Lesser serves on the Joint Committee on Transportation.

The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Senator Lesser Votes to Promote Economic Development; Secures Bond Authorization for Belchertown High School Engineering and Robotics Training

BOSTON- Senator Lesser secured $100,000 in capital authorization for the Engineering and Robotics Training Program at Belchertown High School, as part of the Senate’s sweeping economic development bill passed on Thursday, July 14th.

“We know that the jobs of the future rely on data, science, technology, engineering, and math — this program will help students in Belchertown train for and enter careers in these fields,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser was inspired to fight for authorization for the project after a visit to the Belchertown School Committee, where he learned that Belchertown High School was in the process of developing an engineering program.

The funding will outfit existing classrooms at Belchertown High school with materials to create a comprehensive robotics, programming, and coding space for students grades 9-12. Sen. Lesser’s appropriation, once authorized by the Governor, will cover the cost of programmable robots, 3D printers and pens, and “barebones” computer processors.

With these materials, Belchertown will be able to add two sections of robotics and one section of programming without adding faculty or staff. Once the foundational structure is established, the high school will be able to add additional classes in subjects like computer science, programming, and green engineering in order to better prepare students for 21st Century careers.

Senator Lesser has a record of supporting funding for job training and 21st Century education programs in Western Massachusetts, including securing key funding for the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s manufacturing program. In the same bill passed on July 14th, he secured funds for Chicopee High School’s vocational education program. As co-chair of the Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative and a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, he is a leader in the Senate on issues relating to young people and technology.

The bill will now be reconciled with the House version and sent to the Governor’s desk.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Lesser Votes to Promote Economic Development; Secures Bond Authorization for Belchertown High School Engineering and Robotics Training

Senator Lesser Votes to Promote Economic Development; Secures Bond Authorization for Springfield Innovation Center Expansion

BOSTON – On July 14th, Senator Lesser secured $200,000 in capital authorization for DevelopSpringfield’s revitalization project of the Springfield Innovation Center on Bridge Street. Senator Lesser’s amendment, co-sponsored by Senator James Welch, was adopted as a part of the Senate’s sweeping Economic Development bill.

“Springfield has seen growth in the technology sector thanks to groups like Venture Valley Mentors, TechFoundry, TechSpring, and others,” Senator Lesser said. “The construction of the innovation center on Bridge Street is an essential part of that growth. This would provide even more entrepreneurs with a place to nurture and grow their businesses.”

DevelopSpringfield’s Innovation Center provides space and resources to help launch new tech businesses. The Innovation Center (SIC) will be the cornerstone of downtown Springfield’s newly designated Innovation District. CEO Jay Minkarah hopes that, with the proper funding and support, the SIC will help top-notch entrepreneurs to “grow up, get bigger, and land right here in Springfield.”

Sen. Lesser’s appropriation, once authorized by the Governor, would be used to expand the SIC, allowing it to host more businesses. Combined with the other development around the renovated Union Station, investment in the Innovation Center presents a unique opportunity to bolster Springfield’s economy and create new high-tech jobs.

Senator Lesser has fought for the innovation economy as a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. He sponsored legislation for a tax credit for investors in high-tech small businesses that locate in Gateway Cities, and has secured funds for computer science and high-tech manufacturing programs in Western Massachusetts high schools.

The bill will now be reconciled with the House version and sent to the Governor’s desk.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Lesser Votes to Promote Economic Development; Secures Bond Authorization for Springfield Innovation Center Expansion

Senator Lesser Votes to Promote Economic Development; Secures Bond Authorization for Chicopee Vocational Education

BOSTON- Senator Lesser secured $200,000 in capital authorization for Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s career preparation programs, as part of the Senate’s sweeping economic development bill passed on Thursday, July 14th.

“These programs are  incredibly valuable for students in Chicopee and they are helping place students in jobs that pay well here in Western Mass–it’s important for our growth as a region.” Senator Lesser said to his colleagues on the Senate Floor.

Senator Lesser’s appropriation, once authorized by the Governor, provides funds to Chicopee Comprehensive High School for the purchase of replacement equipment for the electrical and carpentry programs. This includes new band saws, new axis drives, a new CAD/CAM cutting system and a new van for transportation of the carpentry and electrical students to job sites across Chicopee where they will gain real world experience.

Senator Lesser has a record of supporting funding for job training and 21st Century education programs in Western Massachusetts, including securing key funding for the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative’s manufacturing program. In the same bill passed on July 14th, he secured funds for Belchertown High School’s new engineering program. As co-chair of the Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative and a member of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, he is a leader in the Senate on issues relating to young people and technology.

The bill will now be reconciled with the House version and sent to the Governor’s desk.

Senator Lesser Votes to Encourage Economic Development

BOSTON—On July 14th, Senator Lesser voted for comprehensive economic development legislation including investments, initiatives and incentives to promote development and workforce training, create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. The legislation strengthens existing programs and authorizes $743.9M in capital spending over a period of three years for a range of economic development initiatives supporting workers, businesses and communities.

“Promoting business in Massachusetts means ensuring workers are well-trained and well-paid,” said Senator Lesser. “This bill will make it easier to do business in Western Massachusetts: bringing more jobs to a more vibrant community. I can’t wait to see the college savings tax deduction, the pregnant workers fairness amendment, and the updated Earned Income Tax Credit go into effect.”

“Public policy and public investment is critical for Massachusetts to keep growing its economy and leading the nation in innovation and technology. This bill makes targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, and job creation strategies,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “Among one of the important provisions of this bill is the increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit by 5% for over 415,000 working families in the Commonwealth to continue the Senate’s work on addressing income inequality.”

Senator Lesser supported language that was included to create a tax deduction on college savings and authorized capital bonds for Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s career programs, Belchertown High School’s engineering program and the Springfield Innovation Center. He also supported the successful Pregnant Workers Fairness amendment, which bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.

The college savings tax deduction encourages families to save for higher education. Individual filers would be able to take a $1,000 tax deduction for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program, also known as a 529 plan. Married couples filing taxes jointly would be able to take a $2,000 deduction.

Continuing the Senate’s efforts to address income inequality and support working families, the bill also increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by 5%, from 23% to 28% of the federal refund, effective January 1, 2018, and closes a loophole that allows nonresidents to claim this credit in Massachusetts.

The bill authorizes capital investments in initiatives to promote innovation, create jobs and provide skills training and assistance for the Massachusetts workforce, including:

  • $71M in matching grants to allow colleges and universities to participate in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative, a key industry with thousands of open, well-paying positions in Western Massachusetts.
  • $45M for building improvements for career technical education and training programs, a priority of Senator Lesser’s throughout his first term.
  • $30M for workforce training and education in the advanced manufacturing, technology and hospitality fields, three major employers in Western Massachusetts.
  • $15M for a new Innovation Infrastructure Program providing grants and loans for the design, construction and improvement of buildings to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, including co-working spaces, innovation centers, maker spaces, post-incubation start-ups and artist spaces; like the Springfield Innovation Center.
  • $15M for matching grants for innovative scientific and technology research and development activities stimulating economic and employment opportunities in the state.
  • $4.5M for a cybersecurity and data analytics technology development and training center.
  • $2.4M for the Early College High School Program to encourage partnerships between school districts and higher education institutions.

The bill also authorizes spending for infrastructure investments to boost economic growth, housing production and community development across the Commonwealth.

  • $330M for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides funding to cities and towns to support commercial and residential development, housing, downtown revitalization, transportation improvements and other infrastructure necessary for economic development and job creation.
  • $30M for transformative development projects in Gateway Cities.
  • $7.5M for smart growth housing development for low income residents.
  • $6M for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to increase access to healthy food options and improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities. Senator Lesser published an op-ed on feeding the hungry in Western Massachusetts last year.
  • $5M for public infrastructure grants to cities and towns.

The bill also expands the application of the state’s room occupancy excise to vacation, leisure and short-term rentals.

Finally, the bill eliminates burdensome restrictions on retailers, restaurants and small brewers to increase consumer choice and market access in the sale of alcoholic beverages.

A conference committee will now resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.