Month: August 2018

Sen. Lesser Issues Statement After Governor Signs Economic Development Bill Boosting Support for Workforce Training and Infrastructure Projects

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the signing of the Economic Development Bill today, which authorizes millions of dollars in grants for technical education programs across the state and bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program to rebuild roads and bridges.

Sen. Lesser also expressed disappointment that Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a measure included in the bill to defend young entrepreneurs and inventors from questionable business practices.

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

“The Economic Development Bill will put thousands of people to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, and will help prepare the next generation by making strategic investments in workforce training and technical education programs. I was proud to work on this legislation with a fellow Western Mass. partner, Representative Joseph Wagner, who understands the importance of investing in our future.

“In addition to the investments in this bill, reforms to our Commonwealth’s non-compete laws will help workers and make our state’s companies more competitive. It has been a decade-long effort to achieve this reform, and with it, we have rebalanced the scales to benefit employees in an economy where companies compete for the best talent.

“However, I am disappointed that Governor Baker chose to veto an important safeguard against patent trolling. This provision was widely supported in the tech and startup communities as a way to protect entrepreneurs and inventors from patent trolling tactics. These shakedown operations sap resources from new startups and scare people out of inventing things here in Massachusetts, costing us thousands of jobs and potentially billions of dollars in new investment. That’s why dozens of other states have protections similar to the provision the House and Senate included in our Economic Development Bill.

“Massachusetts is a global leader in innovation and an incubator for countless new startups, and those entrepreneurs need the protections provided by the section Governor Baker vetoed.

“Nevertheless, we will continue to fight for patent troll reform and will be filing new legislation to do so. Our Commonwealth’s inventors and entrepreneurs are counting on us to do nothing less.”

The “patent trolling” measure included in the House and Senate bill enforced a ban on making bad faith assertions of patent infringement, a practice known as “patent trolling.” Trolling firms buy up multiple patents only to use them as leverage to launch lawsuits, entangling new startups in costly legal battles that hamper their productivity and sap their early investment funds.

The bill, H. 4868, authorizes more than $1 billion in grants to workforce training programs and public infrastructure projects across Massachusetts, including:

  • $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs.
  • $250 million in bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program that will support thousands of jobs rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring historic ports and completing community revitalization projects.
  • $500 million in local economic development aid.

The technical education grants will provide funding for new lab equipment such as microscopes, robotics training kits and 3D printers in classrooms across the state, allowing for new programs in robotics and other high-tech vocational fields.

In addition to workforce development, the bill also invests in the state’s cultural economy, promoting the arts and tourism industries. It also establishes a two-day sales tax holiday this year, which will take place on Aug. 11 and 12 ahead of the back-to-school shopping season.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, as the chairs of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, had worked in the final hours of the legislative session to reconcile the House and Senate versions, bringing a final bill to the Governor’s desk.

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/ In News, Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Lesser Issues Statement After Governor Signs Economic Development Bill Boosting Support for Workforce Training and Infrastructure Projects

Sen. Lesser Welcomes $70K State Grant to Springfield to Promote Youth Health, Reduce Tobacco Use

Lesser: “Springfield has been at the forefront of efforts to protect young people from the harmful effects of smoking”

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser on Thursday welcomed an announcement by the Department of Public Health that Springfield had received a $70,000 state grant to promote efforts that reduce youth tobacco use and protect the public from secondhand smoke.

Springfield is one of 182 cities and towns that received grants to strengthen capacity to enact and enforce policies and environmental changes that will reduce tobacco use, protect the public from secondhand smoke and protect youth from exposure to tobacco and vaping industry tactics.

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.

The grant funding, a combination of state and federal dollars, will help local communities establish comprehensive tobacco control programs based on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Best Practices designed to:

  • Protect youth from exposure to tobacco and vaping industry tactics and prevent youth initiation of tobacco/nicotine use
  • Protect residents from secondhand smoke
  • Ensure all Massachusetts users of tobacco/nicotine have access to cessation resources
  • Identify tobacco-related disparities and target efforts toward those disproportionately affected

“Springfield has been at the forefront of efforts in the state to protect young people from the harmful effects of smoking, and now this grant will boost the City’s initiatives to educate the public about these dangers and design public spaces to discourage tobacco use. I learned about the campaign to raise the tobacco age from high schoolers working with the Mason Square Health Task Force in Springfield. Because of them, I was proud to vote for the bill combating the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine, and I’m glad that the Governor has signed it,” said Sen. Lesser, who has supported the efforts of local high school activists to raise the age for tobacco sales.

Last week, Gov. Baker signed H. 4486, An Act protecting youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction, which raises the legal age to buy tobacco products statewide from 18 to 21. The new law broadens existing prohibitions on public smoking to include e-cigarettes and prohibits the use of tobacco products on the grounds of any public or private primary, secondary or vocational school. Additionally, pharmacies, hospitals or other entities that offer health care services or employ any licensed health care providers are prohibited from selling tobacco products.

The bill had been introduced in the Senate 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.

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House and Senate Pass Sweeping Economic Development Bill Investing in Workforce Training Programs and Infrastructure Projects

Also reforms intellectual property laws to protect employees from non-compete contracts and defend entrepreneurs against “patent trolls”

BOSTON — The House and Senate passed a sweeping $1 billion Economic Development Bill  late Tuesday night, calling for targeted investments in workforce training programs and job creation through ambitious public infrastructure projects.

The bill authorizes millions of dollars in grants to workforce training programs and public infrastructure projects across Massachusetts, including:

  • $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs.
  • $250 million in bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program that will support thousands of jobs rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring historic ports and completing community revitalization projects.
  • $500 million in local economic development aid.

The technical education grants will provide funding for new lab equipment such as microscopes, robotics training kits and 3D printers in classrooms across the state, allowing for new programs in robotics and other high-tech vocational fields.

In addition to workforce development, the bill also invests in the state’s cultural economy, promoting the arts and tourism industries.

The compromise bill also establishes a two-day sales tax holiday this year, which will take place on Aug. 11 and 12 ahead of the back-to-school shopping season.

“Too many families are struggling to make ends meet and too many workers are looking for work. This bill is designed to rebalance the scales so that our economy works for everyone and fosters growth in every corner of our Commonwealth. It will put people back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and revitalizing our downtowns. And it will prepare the next generation with the skills needed to succeed in a changing economy,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, who authored the bill.

“This bill sends a strong statement that the Massachusetts legislature will continue to fight to promote an equitable economic environment that works for everyone,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This legislation will help grow our innovation economy; support small-businesses throughout the Commonwealth; and enact strong protections for workers, consumers, and our economic infrastructure.”

Legislators also made two major reforms to practices that have disadvantaged smaller entrepreneurs and employees.

First, it reforms the state’s non-compete laws, establishing conditions on the enforcement of noncompetition agreements to improve worker mobility and free employees to pursue their careers.

The bill 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 entangle new small businesses in costly lawsuits that hamper the companies’ productivity and sap their early funds.

Looking ahead to future economic developments and challenges, the House and Senate also proposed new measures on cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles.

In light of high-profile cyber incidents like last year’s Equifax breach, the bill authorizes $2.5 million in bonds to support the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, investing in infrastructure needed to address threats and expand the employment pipeline.

The legislature also tasked the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative with conducting a study and issuing recommendations on how to advance the state’s competitiveness in the autonomous vehicle industry.

The Economic Development Bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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