Month: May 2017

Lesser Amendment to Provide Line of Duty Death Benefit to Families of State Employees Killed on the Job Passes Senate

BOSTON — On Thursday, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that would make all public workers killed in the line of duty eligible for death benefits.

The measure was proposed in honor of Warren Cowles, a Longmeadow Department of Public Works foreman who was killed after a train struck his snowplow while he was responding to a snowstorm this March. Although Cowles died while serving the public, he was not eligible for the same death benefits that police officers and firefighters receive when killed in the line of duty.

“Warren leaves behind his 20-year-old son, his sisters, neighbors and friends who cared about him deeply, and a community of people grateful for his service and devastated by his loss,” said Senator Lesser. “A life is a life, and if a public worker dies in the line of duty, their families should be eligible for the same benefit. This amendment is about equity and fairness to all those who do the public’s work and put their own safety at risk to serve their communities.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union, has been a staunch advocate of the proposal.

“This amendment represents well-deserved recognition for the unsung heroes of the public-sector workforce,” said Frank Moroney, Executive Director of Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  “It’s clear that different workers face different degrees of hazards on the job.  But there is an element of danger in every public-sector job and when that danger results in death, then everything should be equal and the spouses and children left behind should be treated with the same dignity and respect as public safety workers.  We found a champion for this cause in Senator Eric Lesser and we will be forever grateful for his willingness to work with us to build the coalition that made this possible.”

The expanded benefit would be revenue-neutral, since the funds would come out of the public employees’ pension fund.

The amendment has been included in the Senate version of the budget, which will now be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Lesser Amendment to Provide Line of Duty Death Benefit to Families of State Employees Killed on the Job Passes Senate

Senator Lesser Votes to Provide Security Enhancements to Nonprofit Organizations at High Risk of Terror Attack

“No child should have to fear going to school or going to pray at a place of worship,” said Sen. Lesser

BOSTON — On Wednesday night, Senator Eric P. Lesser co-sponsored a successful measure allocating funds to provide security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack and hate crimes.

The vote came just three days after a terrorist attack in Manchester, England claimed 22 lives.

In March, the Springfield Jewish Community Center received a threat that forced the evacuation of the building. A month earlier, residents of West Springfield rallied in support of the Islamic Society of Western Mass after its Muslim members reported harassment against them in the community.

Both organizations would qualify for security protections under this amendment.

“No child should have to fear going to school or going to pray at a place of worship. While it is my sincere hope — and my belief — that our American values and the human values of tolerance and respect and dignity for every human being will win out in the end, we must take steps to protect our vulnerable and targeted populations,” said Senator Eric Lesser.

The amendment was authored by Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler of Worcester.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Amendment to Fund Spirit of Springfield Passes Senate

BOSTON — On Wednesday, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that allocates $100,000 to help fund the Spirit of Springfield’s programming.

The Spirit of Springfield enhances quality of life by managing large annual events that foster a sense of community and civic pride in Springfield, including the “World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast,” a U.S. Navy Band concert and Bright Nights at Forest Park.

The Spirit of Springfield attracts 400,000 people to its events each year, and Bright Nights alone generated $15 million in the local economy during the winter of 2016-2017 — especially impressive for an organization with a staff of only four members.

“I am glad that the Senate has passed the funds needed to continue the Spirit of Springfield programming that has made Springfield such a unique place to live, work and raise a family. From Bright Nights to Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinements, Spirit of Springfield is responsible for the events and attractions that put Springfield on the map, and is a vital member of our Western Mass community,” said Sen. Lesser.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Amendment to Fund Valley Venture Mentors Collegiate Accelerator Program Passes Senate

BOSTON — On Wednesday night, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that allocates $100,000 to fund the collegiate accelerator program at Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) in Springfield.

The collegiate accelerator program is a new initiative launching next month at Springfield’s new Innovation Center. Through this program, VVM will provide eight weeks of hands-on, intensive mentoring, education and support for college-aged entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley.

The funding would be used to provide each student who successfully completes the program with a stipend, allowing those students to spend the summer working on their startup business, rather than working a traditional summer job.

“This program will help new entrepreneurs grow roots in the Pioneer Valley, and we’re hopeful that after starting their business, they will stay in the Valley or return to the Springfield area after graduation. Thanks to the efforts of Valley Venture Mentors and others, we have a growing startup economy in Springfield, and our hope is that this amendment will continue this progress and allow even more people to start and grow their business in the Pioneer Valley,” said Sen. Lesser.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Amendment to Fund Bilingual Exhibits at Dr. Seuss Museum Passes Senate

BOSTON — On Wednesday night, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that allocates $100,000 to fund bilingual exhibits at the Dr. Seuss Museum opening in Springfield on June 3.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum will be the first museum of its kind dedicated to the best-selling children’s author in the world, located in his hometown.

The funding will be used specifically to ensure that exhibits at the museum are bilingual so that the entire community, which includes many native Spanish-speakers, and tourists will be able to interact with and enjoy the museum.

“The Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss are two iconic pieces of Springfield’s identity. Other children’s books have faded from memory but Dr. Seuss’ work remains timeless. Now, thanks to this funding, our entire community will be able to enjoy the words of Springfield’s native son,” said Sen. Lesser.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Votes to Retroactively Extend Killed-in-the-Line-of-Duty Annuity Payments to Massachusetts Gold Star Families

BOSTON — Late Tuesday night, Senator Eric P. Lesser joined the state Senate in a 38-0 vote to pass an amendment expanding death benefit payments to Massachusetts Gold Star Families.

The amendment entitles Gold Star Family members to a retroactive payment of their annuity plans to the date that their loved one was lost. It was sponsored by Senator Thomas M. McGee of Lynn in honor of a constituent who lost her son and did not file a survivor benefit claim for a number of months while she grieved.

State law entitles Gold Star Families to a full annuity payment from the date of their family member’s death.

“Gold Star Families have paid the ultimate price, and we owe them the greatest debt. We owe this debt not only to those who have served and whom we have lost, but to their families as well. Especially as Memorial Day approaches, we have a solemn obligation to honor their sacrifices,” said Sen. Lesser.

Anyone who has lost an immediate family member serving during wartime is considered a Gold Star Family member.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Lesser Votes to Retroactively Extend Killed-in-the-Line-of-Duty Annuity Payments to Massachusetts Gold Star Families

Lesser Amendment to Create EpiPen Bulk Purchase Program Passes Senate

“Today we took a stand against the outrageous and greedy price gouging of EpiPens,” said Sen. Lesser

BOSTON — On Wednesday, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that would create a bulk purchase program for cities and towns to buy doses of EpiPens at a reduced price.

The proposal was based off the successful Narcan bulk purchase program, which was created by the Senate in 2015 and is administered by the Office of the Attorney General.

That program allows cities and towns to pool their resources to buy doses of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan in bulk, reducing the price.

In the first half of 2016, the Narcan bulk purchase program was responsible for saving 1,500 lives according to a report from the Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner.

The goal of this amendment is to replicate that success with EpiPens, which have been prescribed to about 10,000 schoolchildren in Massachusetts as of 2012, the last year for which data are readily available.

“Today we took a stand against the outrageous and greedy price gouging of EpiPens. As the price of EpiPens has continued to climb, parents have been forced to make unbearable choices between paying for a lifesaving drug for their child or paying for any number of other bills. This is an issue that affects too many in our Commonwealth to be ignored, especially in Western Mass, whose schools have been reported to have the highest Epinephrine administration rates out of all Massachusetts school regions,” said Sen. Lesser.

During the debate, Sen. Lesser read an emotional letter from a constituent, Dr. Mark Kenton at Mercy Medical Center, to the CEO of Mylan, maker of the EpiPen.

Mylan, the pharmaceutical company, acquired the decades-old product in 2007, when pharmacies paid less than $100 for a two-pen set, and has since been steadily raising the wholesale price.

In 2009, a pharmacy paid $103.50 for a set. By July 2013 the price was up to $264.50, and it rose 75 percent to $461 by last May. This May the price spiked again to $608.61, according to data provided by Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Amendment to Reevaluate Distribution of State Aid to Cities and Towns Passes Senate

BOSTON — On Tuesday night, the state Senate voted to approve an amendment originally proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser to reevaluate the way state funds are disbursed to cities and towns.

The amendment establishes a commission to study the formula for distribution of general state aid to cities and towns. This commission will review cities’ and towns’ revenue streams and determine whether or not a fairer formula for disbursing state aid to these communities exists, in order to better serve those municipalities most in need of funds.

“Given the funding gaps in many of our cities and towns, I believe it is possible to find a more equitable formula for disbursing state aid to these communities. Our Gateway Cities in particular are often struggling communities that have far greater budget needs than other cities across our Commonwealth,” said Sen. Lesser.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Lesser Amendment to Support Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts Passes Senate

“These efforts will identify the types of roadblocks young women face that prohibit access to health care, to economic security, to opportunity,” said Sen. Lesser

BOSTON — On Tuesday night, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser to provide funds to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. The money will be used to help the organization run its Partnership for Young Women’s Progress initiative, which trains local women to run for office.

“The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts will join eight other women’s organizations from across the country to create a unified effort, with a unified focus to lift all young women and girls. These efforts will identify the types of roadblocks young women face that prohibit access to health care, to economic security, to opportunity — and break those roadblocks down. On a local level, the Young Women’s Initiative will work specifically to address those issues among low-income young women of color,” said Sen. Lesser.

The amendment will be included in the Senate version of the budget, which will be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Announces Support for High-Speed Rail Study Proposed by Sen. Lesser

 

“I look forward to working with the Chamber as we advocate for a study of the economic benefits this could bring to our state,” said Sen. Lesser

 

BOSTON — In a letter to senators Tuesday, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce President James Rooney announced his support for an amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser which instructs the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of a high-speed east-west rail link.

“The Chamber is working to connect regions across the state to support a statewide economic development strategy that will ensure Massachusetts remains competitive with other states and regions. Because of this, we support amendment #1020 that would create a feasibility study to examine the benefits and costs associated with creating a rail line between the state’s two largest cities Boston and Springfield,” Rooney wrote.

Amendment #1020 is an amendment to the state budget being debated this week by the state Senate. Sen. Lesser, who sponsored the amendment, expects it to come up for a vote on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

“It is exciting to have the support of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce behind this proposal. Obviously, they see the potential economic impact of this project. More than bringing economic development to communities outside of Boston, high-speed east-west rail would go a long way toward solving Boston’s housing crisis by offering a faster commute to the city from areas with more affordable housing. I look forward to working with the Chamber as we advocate for a study of the economic benefits this could bring to our state,” said Sen. Lesser.

Sen. Lesser is a longtime champion of high-speed rail from Boston to Springfield.

In January, he reintroduced a bill in the Massachusetts State Senate to require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-Boston high-speed rail. The same bill passed both the House and Senate last year but was vetoed by Gov. Baker.

Since then, the proposal has continued to gain support, including high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton.

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