Author: Ryan Migeed

Sen. Lesser Secures Increased Funding for Manufacturing Jobs Training in State Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate have included $1.535 million for a precision manufacturing training program in the 2016 state budget, signed by Governor Baker. The significant increase originated from an amendment to the Senate budget filed by Senator Lesser.

“Western Massachusetts has been left out of the red-hot economy in the eastern part of the state,” Lesser said. “But there is a path to reinvest in the middle class—and that’s to marry up our traditional history as a manufacturing center with the intellectual firepower of our schools and training centers. This funding supports a successful pilot program focused on training individuals in the high growth precision manufacturing sector.”

Over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers, despite the fact that the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000.

The budget increases line item funding to $1.535 million, a total increase of $675,000 from last year. Senator Lesser filed an amendment in the most recent Senate budget to increase the initial funding amount by $500,000, which was successful.

In the Pioneer Valley, the precision manufacturing pilot program has resulted in an exciting partnership between the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. Together these organizations are working with local community colleges, vocational schools and advanced manufacturing companies to train unemployed and under-employed individuals, career changers and youth across the region. Last year this program received 146 applications and was only able to accept 37 participants into the program, which is underway now, but needs funding to continue.

In May of this year Senator Lesser gave his maiden speech to the Senate on his amendment, calling the Pioneer Valley “a manufacturing hub for 10 generations,” but said our region must work to keep pace with rapid shifts in advanced manufacturing practices and international markets.

Lesser, who is Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, recently hosted a delegation of Senate members at EASTEC, a convention of over 500 manufacturing companies in the Northeast, at the Big E grounds in West Springfield. He also recently published an op-ed on the widening manufacturing skills gap in Massachusetts, especially in the Pioneer Valley.

Sen. Lesser Substance Abuse Bills included in House and Senate Compromise Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate accepted a compromise version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which included his proposals to close the pharmacy shopping loophole for highly addictive narcotics and to create a bulk-purchasing program for the anti-overdose drug Narcan. These measures aim to combat the opioid addiction crisis plaguing Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole. Last year, over 1,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid overdoses.

“Both of these initiatives provide targeted solutions to a nationwide problem – opioid addiction – that has disproportionately hurt our corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lesser. “With a simple shift to more frequent pharmacy reporting and the establishment of Narcan bulk-purchasing in Massachusetts, we’ll be able to spot addicts before an overdose happens and equip municipalities and their first responders with a potentially lifesaving drug.”

In January of this year, Senator Lesser filed An Act preventing prescription drug abuse by closing the pharmacy shopping loophole. This bill would reduce the length of time pharmacies must report the prescription of highly addictive narcotics from 7 days to 24-hours. Also in January, Senator Lesser filed An Act to improve the accessibility and affordability of naloxone and other pharmaceutical drugs of public health concern. This bill served as a blueprint for the Senate’s proposal to establish a statewide bulk-purchasing program of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. The bulk-purchasing program is meant to curb dramatic increases in the drug’s cost, just as it is most needed to combat the opiate epidemic.

Over the course of the last six months, Senator Lesser’s initiatives have gained the support of Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Senate President Rosenberg and other legislative leaders. Both of Senator Lesser’s policy proposals were included in Governor Baker’s Opioid Working Group recommendations for combating substance abuse. The Senate’s version of the FY16 state budget also included both proposals. A February 2015 report by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program included Senator Lesser’s pharmacy shopping legislation in its list of recommendations as well.

The FY 16 compromise budget also includes provisions that:

  • Allocate $100,000 for the administration of a Narcan bulk-purchasing program;
  • Establish a multi-agency task force to review opportunities to negotiate bulk-purchasing discounts for non-Medicaid prescription drugs; and
  • Direct Medicaid and state agencies to identify cost-saving measures, including bulk purchasing consortiums, to curb unsustainable increases in prescription drug costs for all residents beyond Narcan.

The compromise budget will now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.

Sen. Lesser Testifies in Support of his High-tech Economic Development Bill for Gateway Cities

State Senator Eric P. Lesser delivered testimony to the Joint Committee on Revenue in support of his bill to stimulate high-tech entrepreneurship in Springfield, Chicopee and other Gateway Cities.

The bill, entitled An Act to promote high-tech job growth in gateway cities and filed by Lesser in January, offers a 10 percent tax credit to investors who fund high-tech small businesses located in Gateway Cities. To receive the tax credit, the investor must choose a small company with 75 percent of its employees working in Massachusetts.

“This tax credit will level the playing field for entrepreneurs in Gateway Cities, encouraging investors to look for opportunities in all parts of Massachusetts,” Lesser said. Senator Lesser also submitted written testimony to the committee.

Senator Lesser cited Springfield-based organizations such as Tech Foundry, Bay State Health’s TechSpring, Valley Venture Mentors and River Valley Investors as “leading examples of a startup ecosystem that Senate Bill 1507 will support, nurture and grow.”

Massachusetts’ post-recession economic recovery has long outpaced the national average, but not uniformly across regions. As of April, the unemployment rate in Springfield was 7.6 percent, compared to 3.7 percent in Boston and 4.7 percent statewide.

“It is important to support new opportunities in all corners of our Commonwealth,” Lesser said. “I believe this tax credit is exactly the type of targeted and innovative initiative that will foster the type of broadly shared high-tech growth so essential to a prosperous future.”

An electronic copy of Senator Lesser’s written testimony is below.

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Eight Western Massachusetts Businesses Awarded $570,000 in Workforce Training Funds

Eight businesses in Western Massachusetts received more than $570,000 in Workforce Training Grant funds through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Senator Eric P. Lesser announced today.

“We know the key to economic growth is a highly trained local workforce. These funds will help our local small businesses keep their employees competitive and up-to-speed with the latest technologies,” Lesser said.

“These grants are great news for the entire Commonwealth, and especially right here in Longmeadow and East Longmeadow,” said Representative Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow). “The workforce training grants will help with job retention, job development as well as job creation.”

Western Massachusetts recipients include Mechanical Drive Components, Inc. and the Polish National Credit Union in Chicopee; Premier Source Credit Union in East Longmeadow; the Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow; B & R Machine in Ludlow; and Pioneer Valley Urology, Springfield Super Brush and Springfield Valet Park of America in Springfield.

The Workforce Training Fund provides up to $250,000 to companies of any size in Massachusetts to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grant recipients benefit from improved worker productivity and efficiency, helping them save money and fueling job growth.

Grants are matched dollar-for-dollar by the recipients. Interested businesses are encouraged to visit www.commcorp.org/wtfp to learn more about the program.

Sen. Lesser Visits Granby Veterans During Annual Chicken Barbecue

State Senator Eric Lesser spent time thanking local veterans during a visit to the Friends of Granby Veterans’ 2nd Annual Chicken Barbecue held Sunday, June 14 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Pavilion.

“Our veterans gave so much in service to their country, and this event is proof that our communities recognize that sacrifice,” Lesser said. “As state Senator I am committed to ensuring the Commonwealth offers its own support in the form of sound policies and adequate funding for veteran services.”

Senator Eric Lesser is a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans & Federal Affairs, and recently wrote an op-ed on the importance of supporting local veterans and their family members.

The event was organized by Friends of Granby, a group of residents raising funds to build a memorial honoring Granby’s veterans. Senator Lesser was accompanied by Granby Selectman Mark Bail, and met with several veterans and their families.

All proceeds raised from the event will support the construction of the Granby Veterans Memorial Project. For more information, visit: http://granbyveteransmemorial.org/

Honoring our veterans and their families

In MassLive 6/22/15

A few years ago my father called me with unexpected news: at the age of 58, he was joining the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

My dad had been a family doctor in Holyoke for nearly two decades, and after learning about the shortage of doctors in the armed services, he took it upon himself to do something about it; in 2010, he served a tour of duty as a field surgeon at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq.

Through his experience, I learned the sacrifice involved in putting on the uniform. That sacrifice is shared by the family of those serving, as well. My mother, for example, faced the dual burden of worrying for her husband’s well-being while managing her own profession and caring for their family in his absence.

Since our nation’s founding, the sons and daughters of Massachusetts have been answering the call to serve.

To show their service and sacrifice, I’ve been focused on improving services for veterans as they transition back into the civilian life and seek opportunities for personal growth.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, I review and recommend legislation aiming to improve the lives of veterans and their families in Massachusetts, which has a well-earned reputation for being among the best states in the nation for veterans’ services.

For example, the VALOR Acts enable veterans along with the spouses of deceased or disabled veterans to volunteer their time in exchange for reduced property tax bills.

These laws also encourage private sector employers to hire veterans and spouses of disabled veterans for their businesses; provide seed money for the start-up and expansion of veteran-owned businesses; and permit veterans to receive academic credit for prior military training, coursework, and experience.

In May I co-sponsored a successful Senate budget amendment that helps fund BRAVE For Veterans, an organization that aids veterans transitioning into the workforce. I will be a strong advocate for this funding to be included in the final state budget when it is signed by Governor Baker.

I have also had the chance to visit the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke several times, where I’ve met with area veterans and their dedicated caretakers. Supporting the work of the Soldiers’ Home is a top priority for me in the Senate.

This past Memorial Day I had the honor of attending ceremonies in many communities around western Massachusetts.

At one ceremony in Chicopee, the names of those who died during the Vietnam War were read aloud and a candle was lit in their honor as the families and friends of the fallen paid their respects. It was a poignant reminder of how long the scars of war remain, years and even many decades later.

After all our veterans and their families have done for us, we must do everything we can for them.This is a solemn obligation I will always take with me to the State House.

State Senator Eric Lesser represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District and is a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans & Federal Affairs.

Sen. Eric Lesser Honors Chris Collins, Retiring After 7 Years as Williams Middle School Principal

LONGMEADOW–Sen. Eric Lesser presented an official Massachusetts Senate citation to Chris Collins, Principal of Williams Middle School, who is retiring after seven years as principal of that school.

“As a Williams alum myself, I could not be more proud to honor Principal Collins for his years of leadership,” Lesser said. “Williams Middle School has a record of achievement which is in no small part thanks to Chris’s leadership. Chris has been a remarkable principal for the Williams Middle School Community and I know I echo the thoughts of many people in saying he will be missed.”

A former health and physical education teacher at Amherst Middle School, Collins previously served as principal of Greenfield Middle School in Greenfield and in the Athol-Royalston Regional School District. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physical education and health and a Master’s of education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Williams Middle School enrolls nearly 400 students in grades 6 through 8.

Gov. Baker’s Opioid Working Group Recommends Measures Filed by Senator Eric Lesser

BOSTON–A report and recommendations released this week by Gov. Charlie Baker’s Opioid Addiction Working Group includes two policies Senator Eric P. Lesser filed as legislation at the beginning of the 2015-2016 legislative session.

“Opioid addiction is hurting families in every corner of Massachusetts and continues to be a public health emergency. This report includes several important strategies for combating it,” Lesser said. “I am glad these recommendations include two key measures I filed at the start of my term. I look forward to working with Governor Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey to implement these policies.”

Among the report’s key intervention initiatives is a measure that would shorten the Prescription Monitoring Program seven-day reporting period to 24 hours, helping prevent the practice of pharmacy shopping. This measure was filed by Senator Lesser in January and unanimously passed by the Senate in May.

Governor Baker’s report also recommends establishing a system for bulk-purchasing of the anti-overdose drug Narcan, to better equip first responders and others with this life-saving medicine. Senator Lesser filed a Narcan bulk-purchasing bill in January, and both the House and Senate passed bulk-purchasing plans this spring.

A few weeks ago, Senator Lesser wrote to Governor Baker’s working group requesting the inclusion of both Narcan bulk purchasing and the 24-hour reporting requirement in the Governor’s recommendations.

In addition to these two programs, the working group also recommended several other measures that are similar to legislation Senator Lesser is co-sponsoring, including: a statewide drug take-back program to encourage the safe disposal of excess medication, the option for patients to choose to fill prescriptions for addictive pain killers in lower quantities, and finally the implementation of electronic prescribing for opioids.

Opiates now kill more people in Massachusetts than car accidents and guns combined. More than 1,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year, a 33 percent increase over 2012.

From 2000 to 2012 the number of unintentional fatal opioid overdoses in Massachusetts increased by 90 percent.