Month: May 2018

Senator Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Court’s Decision Allowing States to Legalize Sports Betting

Sen. Lesser co-chairs committee overseeing legislation to regulate online sports betting

SPRINGFIELD — Following today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“This morning, the United States Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The Supreme Court’s decision now allows individual states to legalize and regulate sports betting. The Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies is actively considering several bills that address gaming, including former Senator Eileen Donoghue’s legislation, S. 2273. In the coming weeks, my House Co-Chair and I will engage our colleagues, relevant stakeholders, and the public at large in both the opportunities and challenges presented by the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Sen. Lesser serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. A bill introduced by former Sen. Eileen Donoghue to regulate online fantasy sports betting, S.2273, is currently before the committee.

###

Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Updating Formula for Education Funding

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a bill updating the state’s 25-year-old formula used to allocate funding for public education.

The bill, S. 2506, An Act modernizing the foundation budget for the 21st century, would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) which found that the foundation budget formula is drastically underestimating education costs. This has forced deep cuts to classrooms and critical programs, and one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

“Our Commonwealth’s schools, especially in low-income areas, are getting by with less and less. Our students need our full support in order to succeed. It’s time to fully fund our public education,” said Sen. Lesser.

“With the unanimous passage of the commission’s recommendations, the Senate is doing its part to make good on our obligation to every child in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, who sponsored the bill. “For years now, our schools have been suffering death by a thousand paper cuts, and it’s long past time we right this wrong. Schools and families shouldn’t have to lawyer up to get a quality education for their children.”

Established by the 1993 Education Reform Act, the Foundation Budget was designed to ensure every Massachusetts student was provided a quality education. However, the formula has failed to keep up with rising fixed costs like health care and special education that have outpaced initial estimates. It also underrated what it actually takes to educate English Language Learners and students living in poverty. The FBRC found these combined costs have led the Commonwealth to underestimate the cost of education by $1-2 billion every year.

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

###

Western Mass Senators Will Advocate for the Regional Needs of the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District

BOSTON – Today, western Massachusetts-based State Senators Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield), Eric P. Lesser (D- Longmeadow), Anne M. Gobi (D- Spencer) and Donald F. Humason, Jr. (R- Westfield) announced that they will collectively advocate for the regional needs and policy priorities of the communities within the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District for the remainder of the formal legislative session.

Due to the resignation of Senator Stan Rosenberg, the two dozen communities will be without representation in the Massachusetts Senate, effective at 5 p.m. tonight.  The 2017-2018 formal legislative session will conclude on July 31, 2018, and many key bills will be debated during the next three months, including the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.

The four Senators issued the following statement:

“We wish to assure the residents, local and regional officials in the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District that we will work together to represent your needs and priorities on Beacon Hill.  We will work collectively to advance your agenda and protect your interests for the remainder of this legislative session.  It is the right thing to do for western Massachusetts and to keep our region strong.”

Further, the Senators secured a commitment from Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D- Worcester) that she will help them protect the interests of Rosenberg’s former District:

“The Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District will continue to have a voice on Beacon Hill. Under the leadership of Senators Hinds, Lesser, Gobi and Humason, this body will continue to stand for the legislation important to residents. As Senate President, I add my voice to theirs, and pledge to work with my colleagues in local, state and federal government to advocate for the issues vital to this Western Massachusetts District.”

Members of Senator Rosenberg’s staff will continue to be available, both locally and in the State House, for casework inquiries and to provide guidance to the Senate on pending policy matters until the 2019-2020 legislative session begins in January.  However, policy work such as sponsoring and filing bills, home rule petitions, amendments and participating in Senate debate and roll call votes cannot be done by staff.  Senators Hinds, Lesser, Gobi and Humason will collaborate to ensure key priorities for the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester District are presented and considered by the Massachusetts Senate for the remainder of this term.

The Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District is comprised of twenty four communities:  Amherst, Bernardston, Colrain, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Leverett, Leyden, Montague, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Pelham, Royalston, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Whately.

###

Senator Lesser Votes to Pass BRAVE Act, Expanding State Benefits for Veterans

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass the “BRAVE Act,” assuring Massachusetts’ status as first in the nation for veterans’ services.

The bill, S.2454, An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, expands benefits and increases access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families, including expanding property tax breaks for veterans and creating reserved parking for veterans at local government buildings, among other provisions.

“Our veterans and their families deserve our gratitude and our support after giving us their devotion and years of service. These are meaningful actions we took to support our veterans, particularly those who have fallen into difficult circumstances,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.

Among other measures, the bill grants paid military leave for those called to duty by the armed forces for up to 40 days for training and operation purposes.

To help ease the costs of housing, the legislation changes the requirement for veterans to receive property tax exemptions from residing in the Commonwealth for five years down to two years. It also increases the amount a veteran can earn on their property tax exemption for volunteering in their city or town.

The BRAVE Act increases the burial expense paid by commonwealth from $2,000 to $4,000 for indigent veterans to receive to adequately provide for a dignified funeral.

“This omnibus veterans legislation encompasses some of the very best ideas presented by my colleagues in the legislature and the veterans of the Commonwealth to assist veterans and their families with employment protections, tax exemptions, burial expenses, court programs, medical care, and also continues to recognize those who serve and who have served,” said Senator Rush, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, sponsor of the bill. “We want to ensure that Massachusetts remains number one in the nation in providing for our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families. This legislation goes a long way in accomplishing this goal.”

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

###