Month: August 2016

Senator Lesser and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg Host Municipal Roundtable with Local Leaders

Muni Roundtable

Senator Eric P. Lesser and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg hosted a roundtable with Boards of Selectmen, Town Councilors, and Town Administrators and Managers from across the First Hampden and Hampshire District on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at Longmeadow High School. Representatives from the towns of Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham participated in the event.

The roundtable focused on the needs and pending issues that each community faces, including infrastructure funding, unfunded mandates, and long term liabilities including pensions and health insurance.

“The discussion we had was highly informative and gives us a good basis for ways we can provide additional support and relief to our communities in the next session,” Senator Lesser said. “Supporting the communities I represent is my top priority in the Senate, and these types of conversations are essential to collect useful feedback I can bring back to the State House with me.”

“The insights we gained from these municipal leaders are invaluable. They’ve given us a priority list for next actions. We look forward to working with them to advance as many as we can,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

“Holding this event not only allowed the Senate President to directly hear the individual challenges faced by each town, but it also allowed the towns to hear their shared concerns, especially the mounting costs associated with pensions, healthcare, aging roads and buildings, as well as offer some potential solutions to some of these budgetary problems such as regionalization of services,” said Ludlow Selectman Carmina Fernandes.

“The Longmeadow Select Board is grateful for the opportunity to meet with President Rosenberg and Sen. Lesser, as well as the representatives from our neighboring communities, to discuss important municipal issues,” said Select Board Chairman Marie Angelides.

“The dialogue was productive and yielded specific ideas that the Senate can consider on issues including the new open records law, the Chapter 90 formula, and local option revenue. We look forward to working with Sen. Lesser and the rest of our legislative delegation on advancing those ideas.”

Governor Baker recently signed the Municipal Modernization Act into law, which reforms several state requirements impacting municipalities including updated procurement laws and simplifying financial reporting requirements. A recent report by the Office of the State Auditor’s Division of Local Mandates reviewed 1,560 statutes enacted between 2011 and 2015 and identified 97 statutory provisions that have had a significant impact on cities and towns.

Senator Lesser Announces EZ Pass Distribution Event at Chicopee Senior Center

EZ Pass

Senator Eric P. Lesser announced that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will host an EZ-Pass distribution event at the Chicopee Senior Center, located at 5 W Main Street Chicopee, MA 01013 on Wednesday August 17, 2016. The event will be held between 10:00am and 2:00pm.

“As the Commonwealth prepares to move to electronic tolling along the Mass Pike and EZ Pass set to become the preferred payment method for tolls, it’s important that we are able to ensure that residents in Western Massachusetts have the chance to obtain a transponder before this program is put into place,” Senator Lesser said. “Unfortunately, the closest EZ Pass service center is in Auburn, meaning that residents of Western Massachusetts must travel to the Worcester area for a transponder or wait several weeks to order one through the mail.”

“With all-electronic tolling set to begin in the fall, it’s of utmost importance that drivers are able to take steps to prepare for changes in a convenient and timely way,” said Senator Don Humason who represents Ward 7, 8A, and 9A of the city. “I appreciate MassDOT working with us to assist local residents with the E-ZPass program, and I’d like to thank the Chicopee Senior Center for hosting us.”

Senator Lesser Visits Rick’s Place in Wilbraham

Ricks PlaceSenator Eric P. Lesser visited Rick’s Place in Wilbraham on Monday August 15, 2016. Rick’s Place is a local non-profit organization which offers grief support services to bereaved children and their families in a safe and supportive environment. Alongside Representative Angelo Puppolo in the House of Representatives, Senator Lesser successfully lead the effort in the Senate to secure $25,000 in the FY’17 budget for the organization.

“I’m proud to have worked with Representative Angelo Puppolo to secure this important funding for Rick’s Place,” Senator Lesser said. “Rick’s Place plays an important role in our communities, helping children and families deal with very difficult topics in a safe space.”

“We are so delighted to have Senator Lesser visit our office. This gives the Rick’s Place Board of Directors and staff the opportunity to thank him, in person, for championing our cause during budget debates. His work led to Rick’s Place being awarded Earmark Funds, in the amount of $25,000, for a second year. He and Representative Angelo Puppolo both work tirelessly on our behalf. The funds were originally vetoed but the veto was overturned as a result of their advocacy. Our appreciation knows no bounds,” said Program Director Diane Murray.

Rick’s Place began following the tragic death of Rick Thorpe, a resident of Wilbraham, who died in the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Since it’s founding, Rick’s Place has helped countless children and families learn to manage grief in a compassionate and supportive environment.

Photo: Senator Lesser can be seen with Rick’s Place Board Members: Bill Scatolini, Gina Kahn, and Ken Furst.

Senator Lesser Presents Citation to Delaney’s Market in Longmeadow

Senator Eric P. Lesser visited Delaney’s Market in Longmeadow on Friday August 12, 2016. Delaney’s Market specializes in restaurant quality prepared frozen meals to go. Senator Lesser presented an official Massachusetts Senate Citation to owner Peter Rosskothen and Store Manager Roberta Hurwitz on the occasion of their grand opening.

Delaney MarketPhoto: Senator Lesser is seen with owner Peter Rosskothen and Store Manager Roberta Hurwitz in front of Delaney’s Market.

Senator Lesser Visits Belchertown Council on Aging Annual Picnic

Belchertown

Senator Eric P. Lesser visited the Belchertown Council on Aging’s Annual Summer Picnic on Wednesday, August 10. During the picnic, Senator Lesser met several residents of Belchertown and discussed issues ranging from health insurance to senior center funding.

“Belchertown has a wonderful Council on Aging that provides valuable services to seniors in our area,” Senator Lesser said. “I always enjoy visiting the Belchertown Senior Center, learning about residents concerns, and advocating for senior issues at the Statehouse.”
Senator Lesser is a member of the Legislature’s Elder Affairs Committee and has supported funding increases for local Councils on Aging and property tax relief for senior citizens living on fixed incomes.

Photo: Senator Lesser can be seen with Belchertown residents Ann Hess, Hazel Hardaker, Rolland Mercier, and Beverly Ducharme.

Senator Lesser Fights for Grants for Arts Programs Across the Commonwealth

BOSTON- On Sunday, July 31st, Senator Lesser voted to restore funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council that had been vetoed by Governor Baker. The veto override restored $7.7 million in funding to the organization.

“This funding allows the Massachusetts Cultural Council to continue their crucial programming, including the Community Music School of Springfield, support for Springfield’s new cultural district, and arts and music programming for thousands of school-aged kids,” said Senator Lesser. “Cultural development is economic development. I’m grateful to the 21 senators and 106 representatives that signed our letter of support for this override.”

Senator Lesser, alongside Senator Wolf and Representatives Pignatelli and Atkins, circulated a letter of support for the override after the Governor vetoed the funding. The letter stated, “From Boston to the Berkshires, from Cape Ann to Cape Cod, our state boasts an array of exceptional cultural organizations, beautiful and distinctive communities, and thousands of talented artists and educators. The MCC nurtures the creative life of Massachusetts. It is imperative that we continue to provide the Massachusetts Cultural Council with the necessary resources to continue the great work it does in the Commonwealth.”

Some of the beneficiaries of Cultural Council grants are small non-profits. Others are major museums and cultural organizations. In Western Massachusetts, the Cultural Council helps fund the Springfield Symphony, the Springfield Museums, Community Music School of Springfield, Drama Studio, Inc, the Performance Project, Springfield City Library, local cultural councils, school programming at elementary, middle and high schools, and more.

Senator Lesser is co-chair of the Committee on Tourism, Arts and Culture. He published an op-ed on the importance of the economic importance of tourism, arts and culture last summer.

 

Senator Lesser Votes for Paid Family and Medical Leave

BOSTON- This Saturday, July 30th, Senator Eric Lesser voted to ensure that workers at Massachusetts businesses can take time off for family or medical reasons. S.2446, An Act establishing a family and medical leave and temporary disability leave insurance program, which Senator Lesser co-sponsored, includes a number of initiatives designed to make it possible for workers to care for a family member, a newborn or adopted child, or recover from disease or injury with limited cost to the employer and employee.

“This bill is about putting Massachusetts to work while ensuring that people don’t have to make a decision between keeping their job and having a child or caring for a sick loved one,” said Senator Lesser. “It’s better for businesses to have employees that don’t have to quit when life gets in the way- and it’s better for workers to have the security of steady employment, regardless of their family circumstances.”

The bill establishes a Department of Family and Medical Leave and creates the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund. It requires an employer to restore an employee who has taken leave to their previous position or an equal one (unless severe economic conditions change the company operations). It forbids employers from using an employee’s disability or family leave to affect their right to receive earned vacation and sick time, bonuses, promotions, or other benefit programs before they leave or when they return.

Both workers and employees will pay into the trust fund. By pooling costs and risk together, and with benefits paid by the trust fund created by this bill, small businesses could offer their employees paid leave for just $3 per worker per week.

California and New Jersey have had paid family and medical leave for years, and both workers and businesses report positive effects. Six years after California’s law was implemented, 89 to 99 percent of employers reported that paid family and medical leave had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover, and employee morale.

Senator Lesser has fought for good jobs with good benefits throughout his first term in office. He also co-sponsored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Pay Equity Act. He advocated for IBEW workers’ right to unemployment after the 2016 Verizon Strike, and has won funding for manufacturing training programs to prepare Western Massachusetts youth for the jobs of the future.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.