Author: Ryan Migeed

Sen. Eric Lesser Helps Secure Approval of Drug Court in Springfield

Sen. Eric P. Lesser today announced that the Executive Office of the Trial Court has committed to establishing a Drug Court in the City of Springfield in 2016.

Support for the new Drug Court came as a result of a concerted effort led by Sen. Lesser, the Pioneer Valley Project, and other local officials and community leaders, including the Springfield legislative delegation.

The commitment was communicated in writing by Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence.

“This new Drug Court will give our judges and law enforcement officers an important tool to provide the best possible treatment options to those struggling with substance abuse and addiction,” Sen. Lesser said. “Drug Courts also help save money by keeping more of our citizens out of prisons and reducing the chance that they will be arrested in the future.”

Drug Courts help address underlying issues of drug and alcohol addiction through intensive probation supervision, regular drug testing and various therapy options.  They are estimated to produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per person by reducing prison costs and revolving-door arrests.

“Until now the closest drug court was located in Greenfield,” Sen. Lesser said. “It’s important for those needing treatment to have local access to these essential services.”

Sen. Lesser’s efforts to secure a Drug Court in Springfield began in May, when he filed a budget amendment that sought $500,000 in funds for the court’s establishment. While the amendment was unsuccessful, Lesser later voted with the Senate to secure a $229,651 increase in funding for specialty courts, which includes drug courts.

Lesser also voted for a successful measure in the Legislature’s supplemental budget passed in late October, which allocated $300,000 to help Trial Courts identify gaps in the criminal justice system for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders.

The announcement for the new Springfield Drug Court came after Sen. Lesser’s office met with Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence and Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey in late September, providing a letter of support from Sen. Lesser and the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation.

The Pioneer Valley Project, a Springfield-based community organizing group, helped arrange the meeting after spending months rallying community support for the new Springfield Drug Court. The group also presented letters of support from Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr.

“We are pleased and impressed with the level of community support and engagement around the founding of a Drug Court in Springfield,” Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence and Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey wrote in their letter to Sen. Lesser.

“We’re pleased that a drug court will be coming to Springfield, the largest city in Western Massachusetts,” Pioneer Valley Project director Tara Parrish said. “We know that incarceration does not address addiction.  Treatment can.  We want members of our community dealing with substance abuse and addiction to have the opportunity to heal and have continued access to employment opportunities. We’re excited to continue working together with our local leaders to bring the drug court to fruition.”

There are currently 22 adult and three juvenile Drug Courts across the Commonwealth. Currently, Greenfield is the only Western Massachusetts community with access to this specialized court.

Sen. Lesser Tours Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company in Ludlow

Sen. Eric P. Lesser today toured the Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), a non-profit public corporation that provides a variety of power supply, financial, risk management and other services to the Commonwealth’s municipal utilities.

“The MMWEC is a valuable asset to the Ludlow community not only as a local employer, but also as a contributing member of the community, paying the town $1.375 million last year,” Sen. Lesser said.

During his Nov. 2 visit, Sen. Lesser toured the Stony Brook power plant, a 527-megawatt, combined-cycle generating station located at the company’s Stony Brook Energy Center in Ludlow.

Across Massachusetts, municipal utilities like MMWEC serve 380,000 customers in 48 cities and towns, delivering about 13 percent of total electricity used in the Commonwealth. Of the 40 municipal utilities in Massachusetts, 21 are MMWEC members and 28 are project participants.

Sen. Lesser Tours Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company in Ludlow

Sen. Eric P. Lesser toured the Mass Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), a non-profit public corporation that provides a variety of power supply, financial, risk management and other services to the Commonwealth’s municipal utilities.

“The MMWEC is a valuable asset to the Ludlow community not only as a local employer, but also as a contributing member of the community, paying the town $1.375 million last year,” Sen. Lesser said.

During his Nov. 2 visit, Sen. Lesser toured the Stony Brook power plant, a 527-megawatt, combined-cycle generating station located at the company’s Stony Brook Energy Center in Ludlow.

Across Massachusetts, municipal utilities like MMWEC serve 380,000 customers in 48 cities and towns, delivering about 13 percent of total electricity used in the Commonwealth. Of the 40 municipal utilities in Massachusetts, 21 are MMWEC members and 28 are project participants.

Sen. Eric Lesser Tours Chicopee-Based Medical Device Maker For Statewide Manufacturing Month

Sen. Eric P. Lesser spent Friday, Oct. 30 touring Dielectrics, a medical device and thermoplastic materials manufacturer in Chicopee.

“Dielectrics offers a great example of the innovative manufacturing happening right here in Chicopee,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m committed to expanding the manufacturing workforce and closing the skills gap that, if unaddressed, threatens to hold our region back from significant economic growth in the coming years.”

The visit marked the end of Manufacturing Month, which recognized the Commonwealth’s manufacturing innovation through open houses, public tours, career workshops and other events across Massachusetts.

Sen. Lesser serves as Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. Massachusetts is home to more than 7000 manufacturers, employing more than 250,000 people with an annual output of more than $40 billion.

Established more than 60 years ago, Dielectrics is now a premier supplier to the world’s largest medical device equipment manufacturers.  It employs 300 local residents, including many engineers, technical personnel, and operators. The company holds dozens of patents and has been recognized by Fortune 500 companies as a “problem solver” in the welding and bonding of thermoplastic materials.

Sen. Lesser Visits Granby Senior Center

Sen. Eric Lesser visited the Granby Senior Center Friday, Oct. 30 to meet with local residents and listen to their concerns and ideas for improving their community.

“As state Senator, one of my favorite parts of the job is meeting directly with the constituents I am elected to represent,” Sen. Lesser said. “I learn so much from these conversations and bring the comments and concerns I receive back to State House with me. I was also excited to visit Granby during the Annual Halloween Costume Party!”

During his visit, Sen. Lesser helped judge the center’s Halloween contest, won by local resident Sandra Kadle.

A member of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Sen. Lesser recently published an op-ed that recommends ways to better support senior citizens in Western Massachusetts, and addressed the ongoing need for high-quality senior facilities.

“Senior centers make our communities more attractive places to live and allow people to remain in their homes longer, enhancing our neighborhoods and property values,” he wrote.

“By 2035, nearly a third of Massachusetts residents will be over 60. These demographics are even more pronounced in Western Mass, which is older than the state as a whole. Policymakers need to be prepared for this change,” he added.

Sen. Eric Lesser Named as Finalist of “NewDEAL New Ideas Challenge”

Sen. Eric P. Lesser has been named a finalist of the “New Ideas Challenge” sponsored by NewDEAL, a national organization for young elected officials supporting new ideas at the state and local level.

“I’m excited that this idea is gaining national attention, since it puts an even bigger spotlight on the unique needs of Western Massachusetts and similar regions throughout the country,” Sen. Lesser said.

“As a former Governor, I know that the best ideas about moving our country forward often come from innovators on the front lines of state and local government. I’m excited by the fresh thinking demonstrated by NewDEAL Leaders through the Ideas Challenge and excited to see their ideas put into action,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Honorary NewDEAL Co-Chair.

Sen. Lesser’s idea, modeled after his own legislation sponsored in the Massachusetts Senate, offers a 10 percent tax credit, up to $100,000 per year, to investors who fund high-tech small businesses located in Gateway Cities, including Springfield and Chicopee. The aim is to boost entrepreneurship and economic growth in areas outside traditional tech centers. The bill had a public hearing June 30 and awaits action by the Joint Committee on Revenue.

“A high-tech business tax credit is exactly the type of innovative policymaking needed to make strong economic progress in Springfield and our surrounding communities,” Sen. Lesser said.

In his submission, 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 this bill will support, nurture and grow.”

The New Ideas Challenge is a national contest that recognizes innovative policies being developed by state and local leaders. Sen. Lesser was among 18 finalists chosen out of nearly 70 applicants. More information on the contest and finalists can be found here: newde.al/15finalists

Op-ed: Ensuring our seniors age with dignity

In MassLive 10/26/15

During a recent visit to the Ludlow Senior Center, I spent time chatting with local residents about everything from new grandchildren to the rising cost of prescription drugs.

These conversations are important, especially since our Commonwealth’s population is aging at a rapid pace. By 2035, nearly a third of Massachusetts residents will be over 60. These demographics are even more pronounced in Western Mass, which is older than the state as a whole. Policymakers need to be prepared for this change.

That’s why I joined the Legislature’s Committee on Elder Affairs. In my role on that committee, I regularly talk with seniors in our area. The main lesson I’ve learned is that seniors and their families require special attention and creative approaches from their elected leaders.

In Belchertown, for example, I spoke with a woman from the Pine Valley Plantation, a senior housing community, who was concerned about prescription drug costs and limited transportation. At a community dinner at the Hampden Senior Center, I spoke with families doing their best to care for aging parents.

One of the most important ways to support seniors and their families is ensuring each community has a high-quality senior center. These facilities serve as one-stop locations for everything from daily meals to health screenings, exercise classes and transportation. They make our communities more attractive places to live and allow people to remain in their homes longer, enhancing our neighborhoods and property values.

New senior centers in Chicopee, East Longmeadow and other communities do a great job of providing these vital services, but we can do more to bring them to all residents regardless of where they live. As a significant first step, I co-sponsored a successful budget amendment that brought a large funding increase to our Councils on Aging, who organize and run each community senior center. I’m also a strong supporter of the new Springfield Senior Center being built near Blunt Park.

In addition, I know that many seniors are worried about housing costs. That’s why I’ve worked closely with town, state and private sector officials on a new senior housing development in the Ludlow Mills, and support the eventual development of senior housing at the former State School site in Belchertown.

Many seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible, but have a hard time accessing vital healthcare and home support services. To help, I’m supporting a Senate bill that takes steps to improve the quality of these services, including Alzheimer’s care and physical therapy.

On a visit to the East Longmeadow Senior Center, I rode along with a Meals on Wheels volunteer, delivering dozens of meals to homebound seniors. Along the way I had the chance to chat with many of the meal recipients and hear a bit about their lives. We certainly have a lot to learn from our seniors – they’ve spent a lifetime living and working in our communities.

It’s our solemn obligation to ensure that all members of our community age with dignity. Everyone has a role to play, including our policy-makers at the State House.

Senator Eric P. Lesser is a member of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, which reviews and promotes policies affecting seniors in the Commonwealth.

Sen. Lesser Nominates Springfield and Wilbraham residents for 75th Citizens’ Legislative Seminar

Two Western Massachusetts residents nominated by Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) participated in the 75th Annual Citizens’ Legislative Seminar, held this week at the State House.

“This seminar is a great opportunity for Massachusetts residents to see firsthand how our state government works,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m proud to have nominated two community leaders who will use these lessons to encourage more residents to take an active role in their communities and in our Commonwealth.”

“I’ve learned so much from this seminar, and am excited to bring all this information and energy back to Springfield,” said Jean Canosa Albano, Manager of Public Services at the Springfield City Library and a resident of Wilbraham.

“This seminar was an eye-opener for me, and will serve as a strong motivator for anyone looking to play an active role in improving our communities,” said Linda Matys O’Connell, a member of the Springfield Unit of the Northampton Area League of Women Voters and a resident of Springfield.

Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, the two-day seminar features presentations by Senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth.

Seminar activities included an overview of the history and process of the legislature, and discussion on how to make one’s voice heard in the legislative process. The seminar culminated with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session where participants are invited to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.

Senator Eric Lesser Votes to Pass Worker Protection Legislation

BOSTON–Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted in support of three successful Senate bills Thursday that enhance compensation and protections for Massachusetts workers.

“These initiatives make significant improvements for workers across the Commonwealth by expanding workers’ compensation and giving the Attorney General greater authority to represent workers in cases of employment law violations,” Sen. Lesser said.

The first bill, An Act relative to fairness in workers’ compensation disfigurement benefits, expands workers’ compensation to apply to cases of scar-based disfigurement on any part of the body, rather than only on the head and neck. It also increases the maximum benefit for this type of disfigurement to 22.5 times the state average weekly wage, an increase over the previous flat rate of $15,000.

The second bill, An Act relative to enhanced enforcement of civil penalties, authorizes the Attorney General to seek damages or lost wages on behalf of workers for violations of employment law.

The two bills passed the Senate and now move to the House for consideration.

Sen. Lesser also voted in support of a successful measure to bring the Commonwealth into compliance with the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. This change will allow Massachusetts to qualify for more federal workforce development funds. The bill passed in the House earlier this month and now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature into law.

Senator Eric Lesser Meets With Constituents at Ludlow Senior Center

Senator Lesser visited the Ludlow Senior Center Friday, Oct. 16 to hold “office hours,” giving area residents the opportunity to speak with the Senator about the issues that matter most to them.

“The most important thing I can do as a Senator is to listen,” Senator Lesser said. “These office hours give me a great opportunity to hear from constituents about the issues impacting them and their communities, which are all things I’ll bring back with me to the State House.”

Topics of discussion raised during Senator Lesser’s Ludlow visit included taxes, cost of health insurance and the importance of completing repairs to the East Street Bridge, which serves as a crucial route to Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer and connects area residents to the MassPike and the greater Springfield area.

Earlier this year, Senator Lesser joined with Senator Anne Gobi and Representative Thomas Petrolati to secure the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s approval of $1 million in state and federal money for the repair of the bridge.

“Funding for repairs to the East Street bridge is great news for the people of Ludlow, and I will continue to work diligently with MassDOT to ensure that the project is completed in as timely a manner as possible,” Senator Lesser said.