Month: February 2018

Senator Lesser Meets with Hampden, Wilbraham Select Boards

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, Senator Eric P. Lesser met with the Hampden Select Board and the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen to discuss new and ongoing challenges and opportunities. Sen. Lesser meets regularly with the local leaders of the nine communities he represents.

“I am grateful to the Wilbraham’s and Hampden’s local leaders for taking the time to meet with me and discuss new priorities as we begin planning for a new year’s budget. We celebrated a major milestone last year with the reopening of the East Street Bridge, reconnecting the communities of Wilbraham and Ludlow, and I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of all our residents,” Sen. Lesser said.

In November last year, Sen. Lesser joined local officials in a ribbon-cutting to reopen the East Street Bridge, a project he and town officials from Wilbraham and Ludlow worked on for two years.

Senator Eric P. Lesser (left) met with the Hampden Select Board on Monday to discuss new and ongoing challenges and opportunities as budget planning for a new year begins.

 

Senator Eric P. Lesser (right) also met with the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen to hear about the town’s priorities. In November, Sen. Lesser and town officials celebrated the long-awaited reopening of the East Street Bridge connecting Wilbraham and Ludlow.

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Senator Lesser Lauds $365K “Complete Streets” Grant to Springfield to Improve Sidewalks, Bike Lanes

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the announcement earlier this month that Springfield would be receiving more than $365,000 in a state grant to make a number of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This is another terrific development in Springfield, particularly for downtown, as MGM prepares to open its doors and welcome thousands of tourists to the City. And it is thanks to the many hardworking officials at the DPW and others who prepared this grant application and identified where these funds were needed most. They are all contributing to a true renaissance in Springfield,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

The grant will fund a large number of projects identified by the Complete Streets 5/10/15/20 Year Prioritization Plan. Projects include re-painted crosswalks at 64 locations; installation of detectable warning strips at key intersections; repaired sidewalks to enhance the walkability to schools such as Boland School, Zanetti School, Liberty School, Glenwood School and the Springfield Boys’ and Girls’ Club; shared lane markings and bicycle signage in Metro Center/Springfield Transformative Development Initiative District; and city-wide bicycle parking.

The grant will also fund the installation of protected bicycle lanes along Wason Avenue, Chestnut Street, Bradley Road, and Oak Street.

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Senator Lesser Welcomes News that Big Y Is Doubling Its Springfield Distribution Center, Hiring 32 New Workers

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed the news Friday that the family-owned Big Y Foods Inc. will expand the distribution center at its Roosevelt Avenue headquarters in Springfield and hire 32 new workers. The additions are in preparation for Big Y’s long-term plan to open 20 new supermarkets over the next 20 years.

“This is big news for Springfield, good news for our region’s workers and yet another sign that local businesses are doubling down on their investment in the City. As MGM opens its doors, and the CRRC plant comes online, and MassMutual brings many of its workers back to its Springfield headquarters, it is clear that Springfield is turning a corner, powered by the momentum of its local businesses,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

The news was first reported by The Republican.

Big Y was founded in 1936 by the late Paul and Gerald D’Amour with a single store in Chicopee. Today it is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England, operating 80 locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut with around 11,000 employees in total.

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Senator Lesser Announces Spring Office Hours

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser and his office announced a spring office hours schedule, with regular monthly meetings to be held throughout the First Hampden and Hampshire District, starting in February.

Constituents and town officials are invited to attend and express any concerns, ideas and issues they may have, and representatives from Sen. Lesser’s office will be on hand to assist constituents. As always, constituents are welcome to schedule an appointment if the scheduled meeting times are not convenient by emailing Sen. Lesser’s District Director, Joel McAuliffe, at Joel.McAuliffe@masenate.gov or by calling Sen. Lesser’s district office at 413-526-6501.

BELCHERTOWN

Every first Thursday

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Belchertown Senior Center, 60 State St., Belchertown, MA 01007

 

CHICOPEE

Every first Wednesday

11 a.m. to noon at the Chicopee Senior Center, 5 W Main St., Chicopee, MA 01020

 

EAST LONGMEADOW

Every third Thursday

11 a.m. to noon at the East Longmeadow Senior Center, 328 N Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028

 

GRANBY

Every first Thursday

12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Granby Senior Center, 10 W State St., Granby, MA 01033

 

HAMPDEN

Every fourth Wednesday

11 a.m. to noon at the Hampden Senior Center, 104 Allen St., Hampden, MA 01036

 

LONGMEADOW

Every second Monday

10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Adult Center, 231 Maple Rd., Longmeadow, MA 01106

 

LUDLOW

Every second Thursday

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Ludlow Senior Center, 39 Chestnut St., Ludlow, MA 01056

 

SPRINGFIELD

Every first Tuesday

1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Sixteen Acres Library, 1187 Parker St, Springfield, MA 01129

 

WILBRAHAM

Every fourth Wednesday

12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Wilbraham Senior Center, 45 Post Office Park #4502, Wilbraham, MA 01095

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Senator Lesser Votes to Expand Community College Training Incentive Program

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted on Wednesday to pass legislation expanding the Community College Training Incentive Program, which offers grants to community college students.

The bill, S. 2297, broadens the course eligibility requirements for grant recipients, permitting the Program to include and consider for-credit technical vocational instruction as an eligible metric for receiving a grant.

“Training our young people for the jobs of the future is about protecting our communities’ economic security. We should be encouraging more, not less, vocational training, and this bill makes that point by expanding the eligibility for community college student grants to include more vocational education options,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Senator Lesser is an advocate of vocational education. At the beginning of the legislative session, he filed a bill, S. 276, directing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a study of the availability of vocational education programs in the Commonwealth and outline what it would take to establish programs in communities where vocational education is deemed inadequate.

“While the Commonwealth laudably helps not-for-credit students obtain job-related skills, no sound policy rationale exists for making a course for a biotechnology technician degree ineligible for a training incentive grant,” said Sen. Eileen Donoghue of Lowell, who introduced the bill. “Given the need to increase our talent pipeline, my legislation improves the status quo by expanding the program to include for-credit courses so that community colleges can more effectively educate our future workforce.”

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

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Senator Lesser Votes to Protect Minors’ Healthcare Privacy

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted on Wednesday to pass a bill that requires healthcare insurers to keep patients’ treatments confidential.

Often, the treatments that minors receive appear on summary of payment forms delivered to the holder of health insurance policies, usually a parent. This can be detrimental to the health and safety of some minor patients, such as those who are abused at home or struggling with their identity in the LGBTQ community.

“Protecting people’s privacy, particularly minors’ privacy, in the healthcare they receive is vitally important to protect those suffering from abuse or domestic violence, women seeking reproductive healthcare, and those in the LGBTQ community who may not be out to their families but still need to feel safe seeking treatment. This bill closes a gap in our healthcare system to ensure safe, equal and confidential access to treatment,” said Senator Lesser.

The bill also requires the state Division of Insurance to develop a common summary of payments form to be used by all insurance carriers in the Commonwealth.

“Patient confidentiality is a foundational element of the patient-provider relationship,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka of Ashland, who introduced the bill. “Unfortunately, young adults, minors or victims of abuse are often reluctant to seek certain types of treatment, fearing that their personal health information will be disclosed to a parent or spouse. This bill is a crucial step to ensure all Massachusetts residents can safely access the health care services they need.”

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

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Senator Lesser Meets with Belchertown Selectboard

BELCHERTOWN — Senator Eric P. Lesser met with the Belchertown Selectboard on Monday night to discuss new and ongoing challenges and opportunities in the Town. Sen. Lesser meets regularly with the local leaders of the nine communities he represents.

“I am grateful to the Belchertown Selectboard for taking the time to meet with me and discussing the important issues the town is facing as we begin planning for a new year’s budget. 2017 was a big year, as we welcomed new state funding for Belchertown Day School and for the redevelopment of the State School property, which will open it up to commercial opportunities. I look forward to carrying these priorities forward in my work in the State Senate, and continuing our work together on behalf of the residents of Belchertown,” Sen. Lesser said.

In October, Sen. Lesser called the redevelopment of the Belchertown State School, announced by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, one of the most “transformative and exciting developments happening in all of Western Massachusetts.”

The grant will construct a 2,000-foot road and associated utilities, providing access to 25 acres of land and improving the marketability of 12 more acres

The MassWorks infrastructure program will leverage $10 million in state capital authorization and enable construction of up to 268 new residential units, in addition to providing sewer service for two commercial parcels, including the Belchertown Day School.

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Senator Lesser Welcomes State Grants for Local STEM Education Programs

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed the announcement Tuesday that three local schools had received state grants to expand course offerings in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, together known as STEM, programs.

Springfield’s Baystate Academy Charter Public School received a $10,000 STEM High-Quality Career Pathways Grant to enable them to add a Project Lead The Way biomedical course.

In East Longmeadow, Mapleshade Elementary received $12,500 for an elementary school STEM course and East Longmeadow High School received $35,000 for an engineering course.

“Despite our state’s leadership in high-tech manufacturing, our state and Western Mass in particular are not producing enough skilled workers to fill available jobs. Training our young people for the jobs of the future is about protecting our communities’ economic security. Vocational training programs in Western Mass are showing great success, and these grants will help them continue to improve and serve as models for the state and region,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Project Lead The Way is a nonprofit organization that provides hands-on curriculum in STEM courses, including engineering, computer science and biomedical science, for K-12 students. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is the local provider of the teacher training for Project Lead The Way.

The STEM High Quality Career Pathways Grant is funded by the state’s STEM Advisory Council and the Workforce Skills Cabinet with private support from Mass STEM Hub. The grant funds the costs of curriculum, equipment and professional development.

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Millennials rising: Young people fuel renaissance

In Masslive 2/11/18

While division and strife mark the national news, the news here in Western Massachusetts is about coordination and collaboration – especially among an emerging group of young leaders in government, business and the nonprofit sector who are tackling our region’s longtime challenges with new energy and fresh perspectives.

As co-chair of the state Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative, I’ve traveled to every corner of our commonwealth to meet with young people who are stepping up to lead. Millennials, in particular, are ready to reject old dogmas and divisions and to, instead, focus on solving problems through collaboration and building bridges across diverse viewpoints and cultures.

Western Massachusetts has been at the vanguard of this change. Two Western Massachusetts cities are led by millennials: Alex Morse in Holyoke and Will Reichelt in West Springfield. A near majority of the Springfield City Council is now under 40. This fall, Chicopee elected a new School Committee member and two new city councilors, each in their early 20s.

These young leaders are already changing their communities and bringing forward new ideas. Last month, the Springfield City Council increased the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, after a group of young people organized a campaign to change the law. Chicopee is exploring options to improve broadband Internet service, and both Holyoke and West Springfield are better leveraging technology to make government more transparent and responsive. Young people are driving each of these initiatives.

By bringing a more activist perspective to municipal government, millennials are also expanding the circle of people involved in government decision-making, offering new pathways for women and minorities to enter public service, regardless of age.

Our business community is similarly benefiting from an emerging generation of young entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and adding vibrancy to the economy here in Western Massachusetts.

Companies like Paragus Strategic IT, owned by Delcie Bean, who is 31, are creating new technology jobs and experimenting with new management models, like employee ownership sharing, that have the potential to become models nationwide. Tech Foundry, another initiative launched by Bean, is successfully training unemployed and high-school-aged individuals for IT jobs in local companies, and has received plaudits (and grants) from leaders in Boston.

Iron Duke Brewing, founded by young brew masters Mike Marcoux and Nick Morin, both in their 30s, has become a must-stop for craft brewery enthusiasts, expanding to dozens of bars and package stores in just a few years of operation.

These are just a few examples of many millennial-run businesses from across Western Massachusetts, revitalizing our cities and towns. In 2018, I’m confident we will see even more millennials here open new businesses and create new jobs.

It’s a good thing we have so many young people willing to step up, because the next several years, while filled with opportunity, will continue to present challenges that require creativity and outside-the-box thinking.

A lack of connectivity is putting a ceiling on our region’s growth, and, if we don’t make some substantial changes, we will continue to fall further and further behind the Greater Boston area.

An opiate epidemic is hollowing out our families and burdening our health and justice systems. Persistent economic inequality is limiting our region’s full potential, and too many areas of Western Massachusetts remain too segregated and too isolated from each other.

Luckily, our region is blessed with many institutions bringing people together to take on these challenges. And again, millennials are stepping up and taking leadership roles.

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts offers training for young women interested in running for public office. Valley Venture Mentors is supporting young entrepreneurs who want to start their business here and Leadership Pioneer Valley is providing a forum for young leaders in business, nonprofits, and politics to come together to tackle these common challenges with one voice.

This is how millennials solve problems, and this is how our region’s young leaders will make lasting change for our communities.

This is the challenge of 2018, as MGM Springfield opens its doors, CRRC Massachusetts comes on line, and new rail service connects Springfield with Hartford and New Haven. Now is the time to take these very important gains even further, by making sure we lock-in new opportunities and new jobs for generations to come.

As one young man said at our millennial discussion at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston, “If you give young people opportunity, they will create opportunity.”

Yes, they will. With a renewed spirit of collaboration and optimism, our region’s emerging leaders will help turn these developments into real benefits for our families and communities.

But doing that will take time, and it will require the determination to see good ideas through to implementation. It will also demand the participation of young people unafraid to stand up and lead.

Eric P. Lesser, of Longmeadow, is senator for the First Hampden & Hampshire District, serves as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, and leads Millennial Outreach for the state Senate.

Senate Passes Lesser Amendments to Authorize Funds for Regional Lockup Facility, Vocational Education Study

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to authorize up to $3.65 billion in bonds for repairs and improvements to facilities across the Commonwealth, including funds for a study of vocational education access and the construction of a regional lock-up facility in Hampden County, both championed by Senator Eric P. Lesser.

“The bond bill is an opportunity to bring attention to local priorities at the State House, and to say, ‘We need the state’s help on this.’ Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi has made clear that the Sheriff’s Department is in need of a new facility for pre-arraignment lock-ups. This is a worthy project, and I hope Governor Baker releases the funds to make it happen,” said Senator Lesser, who filed the amendment to include funding authorization for the lock-up facility.

Senator James T. Welch, who also represents Hampden County, served as a co-sponsor of the amendment.

The bond bill also authorizes funds for a study on access to high-quality vocational education across the Commonwealth and directs the executive office of education to issue a report detailing the projected equipment and installation needs, including estimated costs, for each vocational school.

“Despite our state’s leadership in high-tech manufacturing, Massachusetts — and particularly Western Mass — are not producing enough skilled workers to fill available jobs. We need to take stock of where we are with vocational educational programs to better understand what our vocational schools need and how we can help them put people to work filling these high-tech jobs,” said Senator Lesser, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Senator Lesser is an advocate of vocational education. At the beginning of the legislative session, he filed a bill, S. 276, directing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct a study of the availability of vocational education programs in the Commonwealth and outline what it would take to establish programs in communities where vocational education is deemed inadequate.

The bond bill will now be reconciled with a version passed by the House of Representatives, and the Governor must ultimately decide whether to release the funds from the appropriate executive offices to finance the projects.

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