Month: July 2018

Sen. Lesser Issues Statement After Governor Signs “NASTY Women Act” Repealing Archaic Laws Discriminating against Women

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the signing of the “NASTY Women Act” today, which formally repeals a number of archaic statutes that discriminated against women.

Those laws — including some dating back to the 1600s — included punishments for adultery, criminalization of abortion and prohibitions on the prescription of contraceptives to unmarried women.

After Gov. Charlie Baker signed the act into law, Sen. Lesser issued the following statement:

“Today the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stood up and, with one voice, told the rest of the country that we will protect women’s rights and we will fight back as the Trump Administration tries to criminalize the very act of being a woman. This historic bill, which has erased discriminatory practices from state law, is indebted to Senate President Chandler, who tirelessly championed this legislation and brought it to the floor of the Senate.

“With the resignation of Justice Kennedy and President Trump’s nomination of the far-right jurist Brett Kavanaugh, the balance of the Supreme Court is more precarious than ever before in modern times. Women’s rights have become vulnerable to a legal onslaught that could turn the clock back on what was once accepted by both parties as settled law. This will not come to pass here in Massachusetts, and we will take the federal government to court if necessary to defend a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices.”

The Senate passed the “NASTY Women Act” unanimously in January. The House passed it last week, sending it to the Governor’s desk.

The act, officially the Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women Act, gets its name from a moment in the 2016 campaign, when then-candidate Donald Trump called his opponent Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during the final presidential debate.

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Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Promoting Civics and Media Literacy Education

Bill requires students to complete a civics project and encourages voter registration for eligible high schoolers

BOSTON — The State Senate voted on Wednesday to pass a bill promoting civics education, including a media literacy component that had been championed by Senator Eric P. Lesser.

“In an era of cynicism and frustration with the political process, civics education can energize our young people and show them that they have the power to make a difference in their community,” said Sen. Lesser.

The bill, S. 2631 An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, makes civics education a required subject in all Massachusetts public schools as part of the U.S. history and social science curriculum. Instruction is to include lessons on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the function of the three branches of government and the critical analysis of written and digital media sources.

In a recent nationwide poll, only a third of adults could name all three branches of government. According to some test results, 45 percent of 12th graders were unable to explain how citizens could change a law.

The bill also requires public schools serving students in eighth grade and high school to provide a student-led civics project, and creates a Civics Project Trust Fund to provide funding for these projects.

Finally, the bill directs the Massachusetts Secretary of State to establish a high school voter challenge program to encourage eligible students to register to vote.

The effort to pass a civics education bill, a long-time priority of Senate President Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), was given added urgency with the influx of so-called “fake news” witnessed during the 2016 presidential election.

“In an era of unprecedented flows of information, from articles to opinions to breaking news and fake news, it is vital that students learn how to think critically and evaluate the information they are receiving at an overwhelming rate,” said Sen. Lesser, who had introduced a bill at the beginning of the session to promote news media literacy as well as civics.

According to research conducted at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, students who recalled memorable civic education experiences were more likely to vote, to form political opinions and to know campaign issues. Researchers also found that civics education does not lead students to favor one party over another.

The bill is a result of negotiations between the House and Senate on their different versions of the bill. The compromise bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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Senate Passes Sen. Lesser’s Regional Ballot Initiatives Proposal as Part of Sweeping Economic Development Bill

BOSTON — The State Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Joe Boncore to a sweeping economic development bill on Wednesday that would allow local communities to band together and raise funds for regional transportation projects by local ballot measures.

The ballot initiatives would empower regions like the Pioneer Valley, the Berkshires and the Cape, as well as Greater Boston, to supplement their state and federal transportation funding dollars with local revenues to advance their unique regional priorities.

The initiatives would help regional planning agencies, city and town governments, and construction contractors budget and plan for local projects ahead of time, instead of waiting on state or federal funds.

“Given the age of our infrastructure and the limited amount of state aid allocated to local communities, these ballot initiatives give us a new way to invest in our infrastructure. We wouldn’t have to wait for Boston to approve East-West Rail — we could start raising the funds and laying the groundwork ourselves,” said Sen. Lesser. “Regional transportation ballot initiatives empower voters in individual communities — who know their streets better than anyone else, who know which projects are urgent — to choose the projects that receive their tax dollars.”

While Sen. Lesser originally introduced the ballot initiatives proposal as a standalone bill at the beginning of the session, the amendment to the Economic Development Bill was sponsored by Sen. Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop), who serves as the Senate Chair of the Committee on Transportation.

“With the lack of funding dedicated to transportation, Regional Ballot Initiatives will allow municipalities to develop their region’s specific transportation needs,” said Sen. Boncore.

More than 30 states, including California and Michigan, allow voters to make these transportation funding decisions by ballot. The initiatives put on the ballot have passed 70 to 80 percent of the time, often with wide margins, in districts across the political spectrum. Poll results from these states show that these local ballot measures enjoy bipartisan support.

The proposal to allow regional ballot initiatives was added to a larger economic development bill that boosts support for Massachusetts startups and entrepreneurs, and authorizes targeted state investments in infrastructure projects and worker retraining.

The  bill, S. 2625 An Act relative to economic development in the Commonwealth, authorizes $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs and $200 million in bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program that will support thousands of jobs in economic development and community revitalization projects.

The economic development bill will now be negotiated with a version passed by the House of Representatives before going to the Governor’s desk.

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State Senate Passes Sweeping Economic Development Bill Boosting Support for Small Businesses, Workers and Infrastructure Projects

Bill authorizes $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and training programs and $200 million in MassWorks infrastructure projects

Bill reforms non-compete laws to improve worker mobility and protects entrepreneurs from false claims of “patent trolls”

BOSTON — The State Senate voted to pass a sweeping economic development bill, authored by Senator Eric P. Lesser, on Wednesday, boosting support for Massachusetts startups and entrepreneurs, and authorizing targeted investments in infrastructure and worker retraining.

The bill, S. 2625 An Act relative to economic development in the Commonwealth, authorizes $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs and $200 million in bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program that will support thousands of jobs in economic development and community revitalization projects.

The technical education grants will provide funding for new lab equipment in classrooms across the state, allowing for new programs in robotics and other high-tech vocational fields. The bill also invests in the state’s cultural economy, promoting the arts and tourism industries.

“Far too many families are struggling to make ends meet, working longer hours while wages remain the same. This bill is designed to rebalance the scale to ensure our economy works for everyone and fosters growth in every corner of our Commonwealth. Through targeted infrastructure development grants, small business loans and job training programs for unemployed workers, we can revitalize our cities and towns and give our workers a head start in the competition for the jobs of the future,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser, Senate Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill also reforms the state’s non-compete laws, establishing conditions on the enforcement of noncompetition agreements that will improve worker mobility and free employees to pursue their careers. It also includes new protections for entrepreneurs by enforcing a ban on making bad faith assertions of patent infringement, a practice known as “patent trolling.” Such claims often entangle new small businesses in costly lawsuits that hamper the companies’ productivity and sap their early seed-stage funds.

“By reforming our non-compete laws, and enforcing a ban on patent trolling, we are also empowering workers and protecting entrepreneurs in Massachusetts — two necessary measures if we hope to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the global economy,” Sen. Lesser added.

Sen. Lesser served as the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, along with his House counterpart, Rep. Joseph F. Wagner of Chicopee.

“This bill enacts strong worker’s and consumer protections that are essential in today’s modern economy,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “Additionally, this legislation will support economic growth across the Commonwealth and benefits workers and their families for generations to come.”

“I am proud of the Senate’s commitment to nurturing our economy. With this legislation, Massachusetts is taking steps to maintain our economic strength, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and allow for more people to participate in and benefit from our dynamic economy,” said Sen. Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“This legislation encompasses a number of important efforts tailored to keep our economy moving forward so that employees, employers, families, and communities can prosper,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “State government must continue to foster an environment conducive to the development of creating jobs and generating revenue for spending priorities through increased economic growth rather than increasing taxes.”

“This bill is not just about the growth of our economy, but about the livelihood of our residents and the strength of our communities. It supports programs like MassWorks to fund local development, Workforce Skills Capital Grants for vocational training, and the Seaport Economic Council to help coastal communities invest in a strong maritime economy. I am proud to support it and grateful to Senator Lesser and Chairwoman Spilka for their leadership,” said Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy), who serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, which reviews all bills issuing bonding authorizations.

The bill will now be negotiated with a version passed by the State House of Representatives before going to the Governor’s desk.

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/ In News, Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on State Senate Passes Sweeping Economic Development Bill Boosting Support for Small Businesses, Workers and Infrastructure Projects

Sen. Lesser, Rep. Goldstein-Rose Welcome “Green Communities” Grants to Belchertown and Granby

BELCHERTOWN — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose cheered Friday’s announcement from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) that Belchertown and Granby have received grants for renewable energy projects as designated “Green Communities.”

Belchertown received $46,897 and Granby received $248,702 toward these projects.

“Using our energy more efficiently not only saves taxpayer dollars on the Towns’ energy costs, but leaves our communities more sustainable for future generations. The fact that Belchertown and Granby are receiving additional grants after their designation as Green Communities shows that they are keeping to their clean energy commitments and serving as role models for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I applaud Granby’s efforts to strengthen our communities with clean energy and efficient technology. State funding for these programs allows towns to innovate and expand access to healthy energy systems,” said Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose.

Under the Green Communities Act, cities and towns must meet five criteria to be designated a Green Community and receive grants. The grants provide financial support for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that advance the communities’ clean energy goals. This is the seventh annual round of DOER Green Communities grants awarded to existing Green Communities that have successfully invested their initial designation grants and previous grant awards.

The grants fund a range projects from ventilation system upgrades and high efficiency lighting to installation of insulation and energy management systems at municipal buildings and facilities.

All Green Communities commit to reducing municipal energy consumption by 20 percent over five years.

A listing of the awards is below:

BELCHERTOWN — Awarded $46,897

  • $34,631, Family Center—HVAC heat pump system
  • $12,266, Family Center—LED lighting

GRANBY — Awarded $248,702

  • $519, Highway—Plug load controls
  • $403, Old Library— Plug load controls
  • $818, Safety Complex— Plug load controls
  • $543, Senior Center— Plug load controls
  • $8,711, Jr./Sr. High School— Plug load controls
  • $14,330, Safety Complex—Retrocommissioning
  • $3,050, Old Library—Weatherization
  • $16,801, Senior Center—Weatherization
  • $20,675, Highway—Weatherization
  • $11,990, Highway—LED lighting
  • $6,579, Old Library—LED lighting
  • $56,313, Safety Complex—LED lighting
  • $14,105, Senior Center—LED lighting
  • $15,413. Old Library—Air source heat pump
  • $28,798, Safety Complex—Electronically commutated pumps
  • $4,000, Safety Complex—Pipe insulation
  • $22,120, Safety Complex—Demand control ventilation
  • $925, Senior Center—Wireless thermostats
  • $22,609, Town—Administrative costs

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Sen. Lesser Welcomes Another “Green Community” Grant to Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser cheered Friday’s announcement from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) that Springfield has received a $150,000 grant for renewable energy projects as a “Green Community.”

“Springfield is a state leader on addressing our climate and environmental challenges. The fact that Springfield is receiving an additional grant after its original designation as a Green Community demonstrates that the City is keeping to its clean energy commitments and serving as a role model for the Commonwealth. Using our energy more efficiently not only saves taxpayer dollars on the City’s energy costs, but leaves our communities more sustainable for future generations,” Sen. Lesser said.

Under the Green Communities Act, cities and towns must meet five criteria to be designated a Green Community and receive grants. The grants provide financial support for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that advance the communities’ clean energy goals. This is the seventh annual round of DOER Green Communities grants awarded to existing Green Communities that have successfully invested their initial designation grants and previous grant awards.

The grants fund a range projects from ventilation system upgrades and high efficiency lighting to installation of insulation and energy management systems at municipal buildings and facilities.

All Green Communities commit to reducing municipal energy consumption by 20 percent over five years.

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Bills Helping Students With Dyslexia and Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday and Thursday to pass bills supporting those affected by dyslexia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The first bill, S. 2243 An Act relative to students with dyslexia, requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in consultation with the Department of Early Education and Care, to issue guidelines on developing screening protocols for students who have at least one indicator for dyslexia or another neurological learning disability.

“This bill levels the playing field for students who want to learn and simply don’t understand why they’re having trouble keeping up,” said Sen. Lesser. “By providing clearer guidance on how to screen children for dyslexia and other learning disabilities, we can shed light on how these students learn and what kinds of support they need to reach their full potential.”

“I first filed this bill after meeting Ethan, a young boy in my district who has dyslexia and his family. I quickly learned that our current laws and education system do not adequately serve our students with dyslexia,” said Sen. L’Italien (D-Andover), who filed the bill. “Most families in the stories I read today have spent countless hours, thousands of dollars, and many sleepless nights trying to get their kids the education that every child deserves. The Massachusetts Senate took a big first step today toward finally supporting thousands of students who just want to be able to learn alongside their peers, enjoy school, and go on to find success in life. Education is the greatest equalizer, and that starts with learning to read.”

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

The second bill, H. 4116 An Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the Commonwealth, also sponsored by Sen. L’Italien and co-sponsored by Sen. Lesser, establishes a state advisory council on Alzheimer’s disease research and treatment.

It also requires all designated agencies of the Department of Elder Affairs to provide training to caseworkers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s. In addition, it requires that physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers complete a continuing education course on diagnosis and treatment of patients with cognitive impairments including Alzheimer’s.

“Everyone knows someone, or has someone in their own family, struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia. I saw the toll these impairments take on families due to my own grandfather and grandmother, who both suffered from dementia. But even though these impairments are common, recognizing their symptoms and treating them is unfortunately not common knowledge. This bill aims to close that gap to provide greater support and care to these members of our families and communities,” said Sen. Lesser.

The bill, having passed the House of Representatives, now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass the “CARE Act,” Introducing New Tools to Combat the Opioid Epidemic and Treat Substance Abuse

Bill Expands Access to Narcan and Includes Commission Proposed by Sen. Lesser to Strengthen Consumer Protection Laws against Opioid Manufacturers

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass the “CARE Act,” an omnibus bill that establishes a range of new policies to combat the opioid epidemic and ensure equal access to care for those struggling to overcome addiction.

The bill also establishes a commission, proposed by Sen. Lesser, that would seek to strengthen the state’s consumer protection laws and potentially empower legal action against opioid manufacturers.

“Too many families have lost a loved one to this scourge of opioid addiction that does not discriminate in the lives it takes. There is no shortage of evidence that drug companies knew the drugs they pushed were dangerous and highly addictive, and it’s high time that we hold them accountable,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I hope that, as we continue to fight this epidemic, we will pay particular attention to the communities that are seeing unusually high addiction and overdose rates, such as our Latino communities and other historically underserved groups. We need to ensure that everyone has equal access to care and recovery treatment,” he added.

The bill, S. 2609 An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, includes a number of innovative solutions to steer patients away from opioids and improve treatment of opioid addiction, such as:

  • ensuring health insurance coverage for a broad range of pain management services, including alternatives to opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain;
  • increasing access to the overdose-reversal drug Narcan by allowing pharmacies to dispense doses over-the-counter; and
  • recommending standards for a professional credential for recovery coaches.

The bill also establishes a human service workers student loan repayment program, originally filed by Sen. Lesser as an amendment to the budget. The program supports many of the workers who are serving those grappling with opioid addiction and recovering from it.

“Despite efforts to suppress the opioid crisis, families across the Commonwealth continue to lose their loved ones to substance use disorder,” said Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, who was the lead sponsor of the bill. “This legislation builds upon the work the state has done around opioid misuse and prevention and provides another set of tools to reduce harm, save lives, and increase access to evidence-based treatment. We have a major epidemic on our hands and we have to use everything at our disposal to cure this disease.”

Sen. Lesser has been a leader in fighting the opioid epidemic. Most recently, he sponsored an amendment to the Senate’s healthcare reform package that included funding for research into medication-assisted treatment and alternatives to pain management such as acupuncture. In January 2015, Sen. Lesser filed a bill that served as a blueprint for the Massachusetts bulk purchasing program for Narcan.

The bill will now be negotiated with a version passed by the House of Representatives before going to the Governor for his signature.

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Create A “Kelley Blue Book for the Internet” in Defense of Net Neutrality and Internet Privacy

“Protecting a free and open Internet will be one of the most important policy decisions we make,” said Sen. Lesser

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass a bill defending Net Neutrality provisions by holding Internet service providers accountable for the service they provide.

The measure is a response to actions by the Trump Administration’s Federal Communications Commission, which rolled back federal guidelines put in place by the Obama Administration to guarantee that Internet service providers could not change customers’ Internet speeds based on their subscription package or other factors.

The bill, S. 2610 An Act promoting net neutrality and consumer protection, creates a registry of Internet service providers and requires the Department of Telecommunications and Cable to grade them based on their service quality and consumer privacy practices. It also requires Internet service providers to make annual disclosures about their network management practices, privacy policies and other measures.

“When history looks back, protecting a free and open Internet will be one of the most important policy decisions we make,” said Sen. Lesser. “This bill creates a ‘Kelley Blue Book’ for the Internet that will grade Internet service providers and allow consumers to hold them accountable for any moves to slow down service by throttling or blocking access to certain sites.”

Sen. Lesser served on the Senate’s Special Committee on Net Neutrality and helped author the legislation with its primary sponsor, Sen. Cindy Creem.

Under the bill, the Department of Telecommunications and Cable will create a “Massachusetts Net Neutrality and Consumer Privacy Seal” that allows Internet service providers to demonstrate that they uphold net neutrality commitments, including equal and open Internet access to customers and an opt-out option for customers to control third-party access to their information.

States are severely restricted by the federal government on the extent to which they can regulate the Internet. This bill, if passed by the House and signed by the Governor, would implement some of the strongest Internet consumer protections in the country.

To guarantee Net Neutrality nationwide, the U.S. Congress must enshrine it in federal law.

The bill, which passed the State Senate unanimously, now goes to the State House of Representatives for consideration.

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Automatic Voter Registration

“Voting is our fundamental right as Americans, and we should be making it easier — not harder — to vote,” said Sen. Lesser

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Thursday to pass a bill reducing barriers to voting by making voter registration in the state as automated as possible.

“Voting is our fundamental right as Americans, and we should be making it easier — not harder — to vote,” said Sen. Lesser. “Unfortunately, we have seen an historic rollback of voting rights at the federal level and an all-out assault on the Voting Rights Act, which has protected the franchise for generations of African American and minority voters. Here in Massachusetts, we are stepping up to protect this basic right and, hopefully, show other states how they should be defending the right of all their citizens to vote.”

The bill, H. 4671, An Act automatically registering eligible voters and enhancing safeguards against fraud, automatically registers eligible voters who are seeking services at a state agency that can register them, if they do not opt-out of registering. State agencies that can register people to vote include the Registry of Motor of Vehicles and MassHealth.

The bill has passed the State House of Representatives, and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

You can register to vote online at www.IWillVote.com or by filling out the Secretary of State’s office registration form here.

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