Category: News

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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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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