Month: June 2018

Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Protecting Young People from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass a bill that raises the age for statewide sales of tobacco in response to a disturbing increase in teen smoking in recent years.

There are now a variety of tobacco products marketed to young people — including “vaping” devices e-cigarettes and flavored cigarettes — meant to entice teenagers to begin using them.

“I learned about this effort to raise the tobacco age from high schoolers in Springfield and Chicopee who urged us to do something to save their friends from the long-term damage done by smoking. We have known about these dangerous effects for decades, and we must take action to reverse the increasing trend of teenagers turning to new tobacco and nicotine products that are specifically marketed to them to get them hooked,” said Sen. Lesser.

The bill, S. 2571 An Act protecting youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine, raises the age for tobacco sales in the state from 18 to 21 and prohibits the sale of tobacco products in vending machines. It was introduced by Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Tobacco use and nicotine addiction is responsible for more than $4 billion in annual healthcare costs in Massachusetts. Young people are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, and 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18, according to Sen. Lewis’ office.

The bill must now be reconciled with a version passed by the House before going to the Governor’s desk for signature.

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Sen. Lesser, Rep. Ashe Welcome Brynn Cartelli, Winner of “The Voice,” to the State House

BOSTON — Sen. Eric P. Lesser and Rep. Brian M. Ashe hosted Longmeadow native and winner of NBC’s “The Voice” Brynn Cartelli for a visit to the State House on Thursday.

Since the Senate is in session, Sen. Lesser introduced Cartelli on the floor of the Senate. She also met with Rep. Ashe and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo.

Cartelli’s day began with a meeting with Gov. Charlie Baker, followed by a tour of the State House.

“We are so proud of Brynn, who got her start at talent shows in Longmeadow’s own public schools. She is living proof that if you work hard and follow your dreams, anything is possible,” said Sen. Lesser.

“We are all so proud of Brynn for her success. She has a great future ahead of her and has everyone’s support. She is truly an inspiration for others and I wish her nothing but the best,” said Rep. Ashe.

Photos below:

Sen. Eric Lesser (right) welcomed Longmeadow native and winner of “The Voice” Brynn Cartelli (center) and her mom, Deb (left), to the State House.
Rep. Brian Ashe (left) and Sen. Eric Lesser (right) presented Brynn Cartelli of Longmeadow (center) with official House and Senate Citations congratulating her on winning Season 14 of NBC’s “The Voice.”
Cartelli’s day began with a meeting with Gov. Charlie Baker, followed by a tour of the State House. From left to right: Rep. Brian Ashe, Gov. Baker, Brynn Cartelli, friends Will Hornyak and Erin Hornyak of Longmeadow, Cartelli’s mom Deb, and Sen. Eric Lesser.

 

Sen. Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Court’s Decision Rolling Back Collective Bargaining Rights

Also addresses Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement

SPRINGFIELD — Following today’s developments on the Supreme Court, including Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and the Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME that rolls back workers’ collective bargaining rights, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“The very character of our country, and the dignity and rights of every person in it, is at stake in Justice Kennedy’s replacement. We will do our part to fight here in Massachusetts. But make no mistake: this is an emergency for our democracy and the rights that it safeguards.

“The Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME is a bad one for working families, and it will continue to increase the gap between the wealthy and those struggling to get by. While workers have not seen a raise in years, the wealthy and the well-connected receive tax breaks and loopholes to help them stay ahead.

“It is particularly disturbing that this decision overturned 40 years of precedent protecting the right of employees to demand better wages and better working conditions from their employers. This reversal is the result of decades of conservative assaults on some of the basic rights we take for granted. Instead of taking their case to the ballot box, where they know they will lose, they wage court battles with corporate-backed lawyers.

“Union organizers like my grandfather and father helped build America’s middle class. They fought with garment workers and longshoremen for fair pay, benefits like worker’s comp, and a reasonable work schedule. The job before us now is clear: We must organize again to save the middle class.”

In its 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees could not be compelled to pay union fees even though they benefit from the contracts negotiated between unions representing workers and their employers.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed to the Court by President Donald Trump after the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nominee for 10 months, appears to have been the deciding vote.

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Preventing Wage Theft

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass a bill that strengthens penalties for wage theft, providing more protections for low-wage workers. The bipartisan bill passed on a 38-0 vote.

“This bill returns workers’ hard-earned wages to them when they have been illegally underpaid or had their wages outright stolen by disreputable employers,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. “If an employer knew or should have known that workers were being denied their wages, this bill will provide recourse to the employee and penalize the employer. Fair is fair, and this legislation levels the playing field for workers, giving them needed protections when they are taken advantage of.”

The bill, S. 2546, An Act to prevent wage theft and promote employer accountability, empowers the Attorney General to issue a stop work order to an employer that has committed wage theft and impose a penalty of up to $25,000. For the first time, the bill also allows managers and lead contractors to be held liable for wage theft from subcontractors.

As an alternative to initiating civil proceedings, the bill permits the Attorney General to issue a warning or civil citation to an employer that has violated the state’s wage theft or meal break laws, or improperly withheld health insurance deductions.

Under the bill, the Attorney General could also seek damages or lost wages on behalf of workers.

“In spite of strong labor laws and many successful and law-abiding businesses in our state, wage theft remains a major problem in Massachusetts, especially for the most vulnerable workers, like immigrants and low-income families” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Chair of the Senate Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, who sponsored the bill. “This legislation will help prevent and deter wage theft, ensure a level playing field for all employers, and protect the rights of working families.”

In 2017, more than 350,000 Massachusetts workers had more than $700 million in wages stolen from them. Due to the types of jobs that can exploited by stealing wages, wage theft victims are usually low-income workers and often immigrants.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law to combat wage theft in 1886.

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

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass “Grand Bargain” Raising the Minimum Wage and Guaranteeing Paid Family and Medical Leave

Bill raises the state minimum wage to $15 per hour and creates the state’s first paid family and medical leave program

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a bill boosting the state minimum wage and establishing a paid family and medical leave program.

Hailed as a “grand bargain” between lawmakers, activists and business groups, the bill, H. 4640, incrementally raises the minimum wage from $11 to $15 per hour over five years and creates a permanent sales tax holiday weekend every August.

It also implements a paid family and medical leave program — only the sixth in the country — that guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of family leave and up to 20 weeks of medical leave. The program does not apply to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

“This compromise is a major win for Massachusetts workers and families,” said Sen. Lesser. “It gives us the highest state minimum wage in the country, tied only with California. And it guarantees paid family and medical leave so that no one is punished for taking time off work to care for a loved one or bond with a newborn or adopted child. As the cost of living continues to rise across the state, these measures aggressively expand protections for workers and families, representing a big step forward that advocates have worked decades to achieve.”

Paid family leave, an idea first introduced in America in the 1990s, is considered a vital piece of the worker safety net as wages have stagnated and the cost of living has increased. The state minimum wage, meanwhile, has not been raised since 2014 and has not kept pace with inflation.

The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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Sen. Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Judicial Court’s Decision Taking an Income Surtax on State’s Highest Earners Off the Ballot

Offers Regional Ballot Initiatives as Potential Solution to Funding Gap

SPRINGFIELD — Following today’s decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that a proposed income surtax on the state’s highest earners cannot be on the November ballot, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“This decision by the state’s highest court will have the greatest impact on our communities in Western Massachusetts, which have long struggled to gain attention and financial support from Beacon Hill. We have consistently asked the state, for example, to fully fund our Regional Transit Authorities and fully reimburse our regional school districts for the costs of maintaining a fleet of school buses to transport our students. This ballot proposal was a potential solution to this historic funding gap.

“Instead, today’s decision means our Commonwealth’s infrastructure will continue to deteriorate and our schools will be less competitive. But we have options. One is to allow regions to organize their own funding programs for transit projects through Regional Ballot Initiatives. This innovative solution — which has already caught on in other states — would empower cities and towns to band together to decide which projects matter most to them and which they want to fund.

“We need to invest in our schools and our transportation networks. Empowering our local communities to make those decisions when the state won’t is a good place to start.”

Sen. Lesser serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Last year, he introduced a bill, S. 1551, co-sponsored by the late Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham), that would enable cities and towns to raise funds for regional transportation projects by adding initiatives to local election year ballots. The idea enjoys bipartisan support, and has been adopted in states as diverse as California, Kansas and Michigan, as Sen. Lesser and Tim Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, pointed out in an op-ed last month.

Sen. Lesser’s bill passed the Senate in the 2015-2016 session, and this year received an early favorable report out of the Joint Committee on Revenue. It is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Ways on Means.

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/ In News, Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Judicial Court’s Decision Taking an Income Surtax on State’s Highest Earners Off the Ballot

Nearly 1,000 Local Residents Learn about Local Resources at Sen. Lesser’s Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 1,000 area residents turned out to Senator Eric P. Lesser’s second annual “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair” on Friday, June 15 to learn about local resources available to help them plan for retirement.

“I’m thrilled we were able to showcase the services available to people in Western Massachusetts again this year,” said Sen. Lesser. “There are a lot of questions people have at this time in their lives, from planning their healthcare to their housing to their future finances, and our goal was to help provide some of the answers to these challenging questions.”

This year’s fair was held at Springfield College and sponsored by Health New England, whose representatives were on hand to answer questions about applying for Medicare and other services. New England Dermatology and Trinity Health New England also served as sponsors. Prime Magazine, 22 News, The Republican and WMAS served as media sponsors of the fair.

In all, 50 organizations participated, each with a booth to share pamphlets and other materials about their services, from AARP to the City of Springfield’s Office of Elder Affairs to Baystate and Mercy medical centers.

In addition to information, there were also more than 30 raffle prizes and four interactive presentations.

A representative from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office delivered a seminar on avoiding frequently-used scams, and local attorney Todd Ratner of Bacon Wilson gave a presentation on elder law.

Donna Champman, Associate Professor of Nutritional  Sciences at Springfield College, offered nutrition recommendations and suggestions for eating healthy. Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, returned this year to lead the auditorium in a popular yoga session, explaining exercises that could be done while sitting for those with disabilities.

Sen. Lesser plans to hold the fair again next year.

Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, returned to the Fair this year to lead the auditorium in a popular yoga session. (Photo credit: Springfield College)
Sen. Lesser kicks off his second annual “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair,” co-sponsored by Health New England and hosted at Springfield College. (Photo credit: Springfield College)

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Senate’s Clean Energy Bill to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Emissions

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to pass a bill aimed at preparing the state for the effects of climate change, including public health challenges, on Thursday. The bipartisan bill passed on a 35-0 vote.

“There are many ways for us to fight climate change and adapt to its effects. This bill is an important step in doing both,” said Sen. Lesser. “By working to transform our energy efficiency standards and address the effects of climate change on public health, Massachusetts is once again stepping up to lead the nation.”

The bill, S. 2545 An Act to promote a clean energy future, sets ambitious new 2030 and 2040 statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits, lifts the cap on solar net metering, authorizes additional hydropower and offshore wind procurement and implements statewide energy storage goals.

The bill also establishes the state’s first ever carbon pricing mechanism. The revenue-neutral “pollution charge” on fossil fuels would incentivize companies in the transportation, industrial, commercial and residential sectors to use cleaner low-carbon energy sources. The funds raised from the charge would be used to help these companies transition to cleaner fuel sources.

“Future generations of Massachusetts residents depend on our actions today,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation sets Massachusetts on a path towards an even cleaner energy portfolio and invests in the future of our children and their environment. I would like to thank Senators Pacheco, Barrett, and Chairwoman Spilka for their tremendous contributions to this bill, and to the rest of my members for their commitment to clean energy and climate preparedness.”

“It is urgent that we move as quickly as possible to mitigate the worst effects of Global Climate Change.  The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the number of extreme weather events that we experience will depend on what we do at the local, state, and national level. The legislation that the MA Senate has passed today promotes a clean energy future that will protect public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create thousands of new clean energy jobs that will continue to benefit Massachusetts and the New England economy,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), who filed the bill.

“Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it. But this isn’t about the Legislature forcing one design, and one design only, upon a governor. We’re firm on timing because the problem is urgent, but we don’t mandate the method,” said Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington).

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

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Senator Lesser Applauds Announcement that East-West Rail Study Is Moving Forward

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Richard Neal and other local leaders at Union Station on Tuesday to hear the announcement that he and thousands of Western Massachusetts residents have long waited to hear: the state is moving forward with a study of high-speed rail linking Springfield to Boston.

Gov. Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack announced that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is putting out a Request for Proposals to engineering consultants interested in conducting the study to submit their recommended plans and pricing for the study.

“This progress is thanks to the thousands of people in Western Mass who didn’t give up, who didn’t back down, and who made clear to those on Beacon Hill that a study of East-West Rail is a priority for our region,” said Sen. Lesser. “We have fought for this for four years, and at long last, the Administration has heard us. I’m glad that Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack is following through with her promise to the people of Western Mass to begin work on this study, and I’ll look forward to tracking its progress and keeping in contact with Secretary Pollack and Gov. Baker as this study moves forward.”

The study will take 12 to 18 months to complete the necessary review process, and will build off previous work completed by the state and federal government, Gov. Baker said at the press conference.

In January, MassDOT released the draft of its 2018 State Rail Plan, which included a feasibility study of east-west passenger rail service between Boston and Springfield. Today, Secretary Pollak announced that the State Rail Plan is final, and that the study will proceed.

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Senator Lesser Announces Presenters for “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair on June 15

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser announced today that the Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair will feature four seminars on topics ranging from elder law to nutrition and movement.

The fair, which will be held on June 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Springfield College’s Blake Athletic Complex, is free and open to the public.

Attorney Todd Ratner of Bacon Wilson will give a presentation on elder law and estate planning. Dr. Donna Chapman, the Program Director for Nutritional Sciences at Springfield College, will offer evidence-based nutrition recommendations designed to help you protect your heart and your brain, control diabetes and high blood pressure, and ensure that you’re getting enough protein.

Timothy Depin from the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey will provide a “Savvy Seniors” presentation which focuses on scams, financial fraud and Identity Theft. Covered in the presentation are details of some of the most common phone, mail, and computer scams, including the IRS Scam, Grandparent Scam and Tech Support Scam, as well information on how to recognize and protect yourself from these scams.

“The goal of this fair is to provide as much information as possible, so that people walk away feeling better prepared to thrive in retirement. Estate planning is a big part of that, and this will be a helpful presentation on that,” said Sen. Lesser.

Master Yoga Instructor Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, will also lead participants in an interactive yoga demonstration designed for people of all ages and abilities.

“Sheila’s yoga demonstration was very popular at last year’s fair, so we wanted to make sure to invite her back this year,” said Sen. Lesser.

The “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair is free and open to the public. With 50 local organizations ranging from health and fitness to nutrition and elder law, the annual fair will connect residents of the First Hampden & Hampshire District with information and resources to help them thrive.

The free program includes a boxed lunch, educational seminars, hundreds of raffle prizes, and access to information and experts to talk to. To attend, please call Senator Lesser’s office at 413-526-6501 or visit www.SenatorLesser.com/Thrive to RSVP.

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