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.