Month: February 2018

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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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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Senator Lesser Votes to Authorize Funds for East Longmeadow Police Station Renovations

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to authorize up to $3.65 billion in bonds for repairs and improvements to capital facilities across the Commonwealth, including renovations to the East Longmeadow Police Station 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.’ East Longmeadow has long wanted to make renovations to its Police Station, this is a worthy project, and I hope Governor Baker releases the funds to make it happen,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.

The bond bill authorizes spending on a number of infrastructure improvements throughout the state. The 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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Senator Lesser Votes to Authorize Funds for Window Repair at Longmeadow’s Center School

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to authorize up to $3.65 billion in bonds for repairs and improvements to capital facilities across the Commonwealth, including at Longmeadow’s Center School.

“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.’ Center School is in need of window renovations, this is a worthy project, and I hope Governor Baker releases the funds to make it happen,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, who sponsored the amendment to include funding authorization for the repairs at Center School.

The bond bill authorizes spending on a number of infrastructure improvements throughout the state. The bill will now be reconciled with a version passed by the State 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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Senators Lesser, Welch Issue Statements on MassMutual Announcement of Adding 1,500 Springfield Jobs, New Boston Campus

SPRINGFIELD — Senators Eric P. Lesser and James T. Welch praised MassMutual’s announcement on Thursday that it will be adding 1,500 positions in its Springfield headquarters and building a Boston campus over the next four years.

“This is very good news, to see MassMutual doubling down on its investment in Massachusetts. MassMutual is a proud Springfield company founded here nearly 200 years ago, and its decision announced today sends a clear signal that Springfield and Western Massachusetts are open for business!” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

“MassMutual’s announcement is a sign of just how strong and business friendly the economy is here in the Commonwealth. As talks about companies moving jobs to Massachusetts continually center around Boston, it is refreshing to see a company reinforce its Western Mass roots,” said Sen. Welch, who serves as the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

MassMutual announced a major expansion in Massachusetts on Thursday, first reported by Masslive/The Republican. The expansion includes adding 2,000 jobs to the Commonwealth and building a new campus in Boston’s Seaport District over the next four years.

Those 2,000 jobs include 1,500 at corporate headquarters in Springfield and 500 at the new Boston campus. The company will also be closing offices in Enfield, Connecticut, Charlotte, North Carolina, Somerset, New Jersey, Memphis, Tenn., and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and moving many of those jobs back to Massachusetts.

MassMutual was founded in Springfield on May 15, 1851. It is listed 77 on the Fortune 500 list.

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Senator Lesser Meets with Ludlow Select Board

LUDLOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser met with the Ludlow Select Board on Tuesday 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 Ludlow Select Board for taking the time to meet with me and discuss the 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, and I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of the residents of Ludlow,” 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 Ludlow and Wilbraham worked on for two years.

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Senator Lesser Attends First Net Neutrality Committee Hearing, Questions AG and Other Witnesses

Committee formed in response to FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser attended the first hearing of the State Senate’s Special Committee on Net Neutrality on Tuesday to hear about the state’s options to ensure statewide access to the Internet without allowing providers to change Internet speeds according to pricing tiers.

Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office has begun a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission for revoking Net Neutrality rules implemented by the Obama Administration, was one of the witnesses who testified at the hearing.

Lesser asked Healey whether legal challenges would arise if the Legislature passed legislation while the state’s lawsuit is still pending. Healey said there would not be.

Lesser also pressed one witness on the question of states’ rights and the Bay State’s responsibility to protect its consumers when the federal government fails to do so.

“Net Neutrality is about protecting the Internet access Americans have always enjoyed. No company should be able to slow your data speeds on a whim. We must do all we can at the state level to protect users’ access to the Internet,” Lesser said.

Lesser was appointed to the committee, led by Sen. Cynthia Creem, at the time of its creation in January. The committee was formed with the task of developing legislation in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules.

“I’m grateful to have a seat on this committee and to help craft our response to the Trump Administration’s dangerous removal of Net Neutrality rules,” Lesser said at the time of his appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Sens. Michael Barrett, Jamie Eldridge, Barbara L’Italien and Patrick O’Connor were also appointed to the special committee. Tarr serves as vice chair.

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