Author: Ryan Migeed

Senator Lesser’s Statement on Greenfield’s Lawsuit Against Opioid Makers

SPRINGFIELD — On Thursday, Dec. 14, the town of Greenfield filed a lawsuit against major pharmaceutical companies for failing to properly monitor the distribution of the opioids they manufactured.

The Greenfield suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, rests in part on the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which requires drug companies to report unusually large or otherwise suspicious orders, according to a report by the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

In response to the lawsuit, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“Make no mistake: deliberate decisions were made by Big Pharma companies to flood our communities with super-powerful painkillers, knowing full well these drugs were highly addictive and prone to misuse. The result is one of the worst public health emergencies in American history and thousands of devastated families in Western Massachusetts.

“The evidence is mounting that these companies marketed these drugs and put them in the hands of patients knowing how addictive they are and knowing the power they had to destroy lives. I’m glad Greenfield is taking this courageous step at holding Big Pharma accountable. I hope more communities, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, take this case on as well.”

Senator 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 to explore alternative treatments for pain. In January 2015, Senator Lesser filed a bill that served as a blueprint for the Massachusetts bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an opiate overdose-reversal drug.

You can read more about Senator Lesser’s work to address the opioid epidemic here.

###

Senator Lesser Tours Local Businesses to Encourage “Shopping Small” This Holiday Season

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser toured a handful of local businesses on Dec. 18 to encourage “shopping small” during the holiday season and discuss the current regulatory environment with business owners.

“Visiting these small businesses helps me get a sense of their day-to-day pressures and what they are doing to stay competitive in Western Mass,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser wrote an op-ed this month in which he highlighted how the state can be responsive to small businesses’ needs, such as providing free business advising through the state’s  Small Business Development Center Network to help existing small businesses develop growth plans.

While encouraging shopping local during the holiday season, Senator Lesser also got some shopping of his own done. Among his purchases were a bag of treats from Pop’s Biscotti & Chocolates and some groceries at Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow.

The tour was organized in partnership with the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in Ludlow, Wilbraham, Hampden, East Longmeadow and Longmeadow. Nancy Connor, the Chamber’s Executive Director, accompanied Senator Lesser on the tour.

The tour kicked off at Pop’s Biscotti & Chocolates in Wilbraham, and then continued on to Village Food Mart in Hampden, Lupa Zoo in Ludlow, Fleet Feet Sports in Longmeadow and ended with a visit to Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow.

Photos below:


Senator Lesser talks with Timothy Murphy, one of the owners of Fleet Feet Sports in Longmeadow.

From left to right: Senator Eric Lesser; Sue Katz, owner of Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow; and Nancy Connor, Executive Director of the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce.

###

Senator Lesser Interviewed by Ludlow Middle Schoolers for C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” Contest

LUDLOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser sat down for interviews with students at Ludlow’s Paul R. Baird Middle School on Dec. 14 for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest.

The students asked Senator Lesser various questions on topics chosen by their class: immigration, gun violence prevention and women’s rights and equal pay. This is Senator Lesser’s third year participating with Baird Middle School for their contest entry.

“I was so excited to sit down with students at Baird Middle School again, and so impressed by their sharp questions. It is vital that we prepare our students for active civic participation from a young age, transforming their civics education to civic action through classroom projects. That is why I am glad Baird takes on this project each year, and why I introduced legislation to encourage civic education throughout Massachusetts. A healthy democracy needs citizens to be well-informed and engaged, and that begins with educating our young citizens,” said Senator Lesser.

Under Senator Lesser’s bill, introduced this session, an “action civics project” would be required of all students at least once in elementary school and at least once in high school. This could include projects such as proposing legislation to solve community issues, helping to register people to vote or testifying in a public hearing.

The bill, S. 278, would also create a voluntary pilot program for school districts to use and test a curriculum on news media literacy, with the ultimate goal of requiring that news media literacy be taught in all Massachusetts schools. Senator Lesser testified on the bill before the Joint Committee on Education in June.

Photos below:

Senator Eric P. Lesser sat down for interviews with students at Ludlow’s Paul R. Baird Middle School on Dec. 14 for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest. Students asked various questions on topics chosen by their class: immigration, gun violence prevention and women’s rights and equal pay.

This is Senator Lesser’s third year participating with Baird Middle School for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest.

###

Senator Lesser Applauds Vote by State Board to Give Tuition Break to Students Relocated Due to Hurricane Maria

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed a vote by the state Board of Higher Education on Tuesday that allows students who were relocated to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

Following the vote, Senator Lesser released the following statement:

“Our state’s Board of Higher Education chose to do the right thing by our fellow Americans who fell victim to Hurricane Maria. Granting in-state tuition to students who relocated here from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria will help them continue their studies and contribute to our state.

“Over the months and years ahead, as these students lay roots here, potentially start families and businesses here, they will remember that Massachusetts welcomed them in their time of need. And we will be richer for their contributions to our culture and our communities.

“This decision makes me proud that Massachusetts is doing its part to help those who have been relocated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is my hope that we will always be the port in the storm to our fellow citizens and will continue leading by example when Americans are in need.”

###

Supporting local businesses this holiday season supports local jobs

In Masslive 12/13/17

Holidays are usually a rush — managing cook times so you don’t burn the latkes or the cookies, taking the kids to the Nutcracker and the school holiday parties, and, of course, getting the shopping done.

It’s this last one I want to discuss.

I hope that, in the rush of the holiday season, you’ll remember to stop at a small business for some of your shopping.

Supporting small businesses supports jobs in our community.

In Massachusetts, there are more than 600,000 small businesses, which together employ about half of the Commonwealth’s private workforce.

Across the country, small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, according to 2012 data from the Small Business Administration.

Small businesses are responsible for 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs — so “shopping small” may even support the job you want to apply for one day.

State government can play a big role in supporting these businesses and helping them stay competitive in an increasingly globalized marketplace. There are resources we can provide to make state rules and guidelines easier to navigate. Many regulations turn into roadblocks, and complicated licensing and permitting requirements hinder growth when they should be enhancing competition.

State government can and should be a partner.

One example is the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network’s Western Regional Office, which provides free one-on-one business advising to help existing small businesses develop growth plans and financial forecasting charts.

That is why I’ll be touring a handful of local businesses with the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce this month. I want to hear directly from small business owners about the issues they face, including the regulatory environment, and how the state can be more responsive to their needs.

Among the companies I’ll be visiting are Robert Charles Photography in East Longmeadow (great for your family Christmas card), Delaney’s Market in Longmeadow (the perfect stop to build your New Year’s cheese board) and Pop’s Biscotti and Chocolate in Wilbraham (which makes a great mid-shopping snack break).

Visiting these small businesses helps me get a sense of their day-to-day pressures and what they are doing to stay competitive in Western Mass.

Especially at a time when the whole state is buzzing with the hope of bringing Amazon’s second headquarters to Massachusetts, we need to remember that our local retailers are driving our state’s economy.

The consolidation of mom and pop shops into big box stores has taken a wrecking ball to our local economies. Through tax incentives and other means, our State Legislature should ensure that companies like the many family-owned small businesses, handed down from generation to generation, can still survive — and thrive — in our communities,.

Supporting small businesses is also vital to keeping our young talent here. How wonderful would it be if families saw their young college grads not just during the holidays a few times a year, but all year round? Creating and sustaining more job opportunities here would enable more of our young people to work and raise their families here, instead of moving away for better job prospects elsewhere.

So, this holiday season I urge you to patronize our local businesses — such as the many local craft makers and artisans selling their wares at the Downtown Springfield Holiday Market in The Shops at Marketplace.

And, whichever holiday you celebrate this season, I hope it is happy, healthy and filled with family and friends.

________

State Sen. Eric P. Lesser is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, and leads Millennial Outreach for the Massachusetts State Senate. He represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts.

Senator Lesser Welcomes $2 Million in Cultural Grants to Western Massachusetts

HOLYOKE — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined Senators Donald Humason, Jr., and Adam Hinds, and Representative Aaron Vega in Holyoke on Thursday for the Mass Cultural Council’s announcement of $2 million in new grants to Western Massachusetts.

The announcement is part of the Council’s new vision and strategic plan, unveiled at www.powerofculturema.org.

The Council awarded $12 million in new grants to nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, artists and communities across the state.

“Our culture and tourism sector is a vital component of our state’s economy, particularly in Western Mass. With a vibrant new attraction in the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, and thousands of new tourists coming to the area thanks to MGM Springfield, we must continue to invest in our cultural economy. That investment pays dividends in more jobs and more tourism dollars in our local economy,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser was invited to deliver remarks at the grant announcement ceremony at the Holyoke Creative Arts Center.

###

Senator Lesser Welcomes Grant to Preserve 86 Acres of Conservation Land in Belchertown

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, Senator Eric P. Lesser applauded the announcement that the Holland Glen Conservation Area in Belchertown had been awarded a $243,636 grant to preserve the popular hiking area.

The grant, awarded by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, will help conserve 86 acres of land in the vicinity of the Holland Glen Conservation Area and a recharge area for Jabish Brook — a water supply for Belchertown and the City of Springfield.

The conservation area consists of a steep hillside with a scenic vista and is a popular place for hiking.

“This grant adds to a number of exciting development projects happening in Belchertown, including additions to Belchertown Day School and the renovation of the State School site, one of the most transformative developments in all of Western Massachusetts. The Holland Glen Conservation Area is a beloved spot for family hikes and picnics, and this conservation grant will help preserve it for generations,” said Senator Lesser.

###

Senator Lesser Congratulates Farmers at Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Local Farmer Awards

NORTHAMPTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser congratulated farmers and celebrated their impact on Western Massachusetts in remarks at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s annual Local Farmer Awards on Wednesday.

“Our local farms are a vital component of our regional economy and culture. Since the Great Recession, state agriculture funding has seen large cuts, making the Grinspoon Foundation’s farmer awards a valuable resource for technical assistance to farms. Investing in our farms makes them more competitive, improving our local economy and enabling them to continue providing our communities with fresh, healthy produce and other goods,” said Senator Lesser.

Launched in 2015 in partnership with Big Y and sponsors HP Hood LLC, Baystate Health, Farm Credit East, MGM Springfield, Springfield Sheraton Monarch Place and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Local Farmer Awards fund physical infrastructure improvements to farms.

Since 2015 when this program began in Western Massachusetts, over $300,000 has been invested in 129 local farms to assist with much-needed improvements.

In 2017, the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and Big Y awarded 49 local farmers $2,500 each.

2017 recipients include Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby, Ferrindino Farms in Hampden, Phoenix Fruit Farm in Belchertown and The Apple Place in East Longmeadow.

###

Senator Lesser, State and Local Officials Cut Ribbon at East Street Bridge, Formally Reopening “Vital Link” for Residents of Wilbraham and Ludlow

LUDLOW — Today State Senator Eric P. Lesser cut the ceremonial ribbon across East Street, formally reopening the East Street Bridge connecting Wilbraham and Ludlow.

“It was a team effort to get this bridge reopened, which serves as a vital link for residents of Wilbraham, Ludlow, and the surrounding community to get to work, school, and medical care. I’m grateful the construction is now complete and residents will not have to take long detours. A special thank you to our local DPW, MassDOT, and the construction crews who worked very hard to make it happen,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser was joined by State Representatives Tom Petrolati and Angelo Puppolo, as well as Senator Anne Gobi and officials from MassDOT, the Town of Wilbraham and the Town of Ludlow.

“Keeping our bridges and roads in good working order is one of my top priorities. My hope is that, in the future, preventive maintenance will ensure bridges do not need to be closed like this again,” Senator Lesser said.

The closure of the East Street Bridge, also called the “Red Bridge,” created a seven-mile detour for friends, family members and neighbors trying to visit each other between Belchertown, Ludlow and Wilbraham.

Senator Lesser heard firsthand from an elderly couple who would park their cars on each side of the bridge and cross it on foot if they had to travel somewhere along the bridge route. They told him their story when he visited the Ludlow Senior Center and he promised to do all he could to reopen the bridge.

“I promised them we would get this bridge reopened, and today we made good on that promise,” said Senator Lesser.

The East Street Bridge, which was originally built in 1937, was rebuilt in 1985 but closed in March 2015 after it failed an inspection. Senator Lesser was instrumental in getting the repair project the attention and funding it needed. The bridge was officially reopened to traffic on Nov. 17.

###

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Lesser, State and Local Officials Cut Ribbon at East Street Bridge, Formally Reopening “Vital Link” for Residents of Wilbraham and Ludlow

How we’re fighting our Western Mass. ‘hunger epidemic’

In Masslive 11/20/17

Every morning, a truck pulls up to Atlas Farm in Deerfield. It gets loaded up with fresh vegetables, and heads to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Another Western Mass farm, Our Family Farm in Greenfield, provides fresh milk to food banks across the state.

This partnership, the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP), has supported our local farmers, linked diverse communities like Hatfield and Springfield together — and helped feed thousands of our neighbors who go hungry every month.

“Hunger is a hidden epidemic in this country,” Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, has said.

And he’s right.

But the problem is visible if you look hard enough here in Western Mass. The average number of people in Hampden County seeking extra food each month because they can’t afford enough is more than 44,000. In Hampshire County, it is more than 15,000, according to data from the Food Bank of Western Mass.

A third of these are children.

In addition to children, another vulnerable group is the elderly, many of whom rely on Meals on Wheels, a federal food delivery program. Cuts to this program in the federal budget compound our region’s hunger epidemic — and make it that much more urgent for Massachusetts to fill the gap for our families.

That is why fighting hunger is so important to me.

Earlier this year, Rep. Peter Kocot and I sponsored budget amendments in the House and Senate to increase funding for MEFAP and provide two million more meals than last year. MEFAP is responsible for a fourth of the food that is distributed by the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, serving as both a vital source of income for our local farmers and a lifeline to the hungry and homeless in Massachusetts.

I am also cosponsoring a bill introduced by Sen. Sal DiDomenico to close the “SNAP gap.” Many who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Massachusetts do not know they are eligible, and either go hungry or go to soup kitchens instead of receiving the help they need to pay for groceries.

This legislation would create a common application so that those applying for MassHealth could at the same time apply for the nutrition assistance they need.

Fortunately, there is plenty you can do in addition to the work being done in our state Legislature.

Start a food drive at work. Donate or volunteer for Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee or Rachel’s Table in Springfield. Bring clothes and food to the Springfield Rescue Mission.

On Monday, Nov. 20, come participate in the eighth annual “Monte’s March,” a community walk through Springfield, Chicopee and up to Northampton to raise money and awareness for tackling food insecurity in our region.

We have an obligation to help those who need help the most — and it is easier than you think, once you get started.

This Thanksgiving, as we prepare to enjoy a meal with loved ones, I hope you’ll spare a thought for those who need a meal themselves — and I hope you’ll spare some food for them, too.

State Sen. Eric P. Lesser is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, and leads Millennial Outreach for the Massachusetts State Senate. He represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts.