Category: Press Release

Senator Lesser Votes to Secure Nearly $8.5M in State Aid for Roads and Bridges in Springfield, Chicopee and Surrounding Communities

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted Wednesday for a state road repair package that would bring nearly $8.5 million in state aid for local roads and bridges to the nine communities he represents, including $3,682,135 for the City of Springfield.

The bill approved by the Senate appropriates $200 million in Chapter 90 reimbursements for cities and towns each year for the next three years, including:

  • Belchertown: $627,149
  • Chicopee: $1,334,849
  • East Longmeadow: $580,792
  • Granby: $278,714
  • Hampden: $257,102
  • Longmeadow: $473,389
  • Ludlow: $699,828
  • Springfield: $3,682,135
  • Wilbraham: $547,510

“This funding is critical to rebuilding our roads and bridges. The new three-year funding approach will allow communities to better plan how they invest these funds, enabling them to complete important infrastructure projects because the funding will be predictable and consistent,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

The legislation will now be reconciled with a version passed by the State House of Representatives before going to Gov. Charlie Baker for final approval.

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Senate Passes Senator Lesser’s Bill to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

Bill creates a new licensing process for student loan servicers in the Division of Banks and empowers state officials to investigate and fine loan servicers

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” giving greater protections to student loan borrowers in disputes with companies servicing their loans.

The bill, S.2380, An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights, requires student loan servicers to be licensed companies with the state Division of Banks, and empowers state officials to investigate the servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

The bill also supports the ongoing work of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Student Loan Assistance Unit by establishing a Student Loan Ombudsman in the Attorney General’s Office, who will lead efforts respond to complaints from student loan borrowers and help them understand their rights.

“A college degree has never cost so much. As a result, students are taking on substantial debt, and they are being taken advantage of by servicers who use deceptive practices and wrongly steer them into costly repayment plans. While the Trump Administration, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, continues to side with large for-profit student loan servicers and strip away protections for student loan borrowers, we in Massachusetts are standing up to protect our residents from predatory student loan companies,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

“As public officials, it is our duty to ensure fair and appropriate lending – especially in the student loan industry,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation ensures that Massachusetts residents receive robust consumer protections and that the student loan industry is given the proper level of oversight. I want to thank Senator Lesser for his leadership on this issue.”

“Taking on abuses in the student loan industry has long been a priority of my office. That’s why, in 2015, we created a Student Loan Assistance Unit to help borrowers with their student loans,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “I thank Senate President Chandler, Senator Lesser and the Senate for providing new resources and tools to protect Massachusetts students and families.”

Under the bill, student loan servicers would have to apply for licenses from the state, which the Commissioner of Banks could revoke if the servicer is engaged in abusive practices such as overcharging students or steering them into costlier repayment plans to make higher profits.

Student loan servicers that break state licensing requirements or take advantage of students could be fined and forced to repay student borrowers under the bill.

The bill now goes to the State House of Representatives, where Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) is the lead sponsor of the House companion bill.

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Senator Lesser Applauds New Jersey State Loan Financing Authority for Leaving National Lobbying Group

SPRINGFIELD — Following the announcement today that the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority has cut ties with the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), a lobbying group for student loan servicers, Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“I am glad that the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority is the latest state student loan agency, after Massachusetts’, to cut ties with NCHER, which is helping President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as they gut protections for student loan borrowers. Membership in NCHER is not in the best interests of student borrowers, and no arm of state government should be involved in lobbying against that very state’s efforts to pass common-sense student loan protections. I hope other states join ranks with Massachusetts and New Jersey and take a stand in support of student borrowers.”

On March 28, Senator Lesser sent a letter, co-signed by 48 House and Senate colleagues, to the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) requesting an explanation for their membership in NCHER.

The next day, MEFA withdrew its membership from NCHER, which has been lobbying a receptive federal Department of Education to preempt state laws regulating the student loan servicers.

At the time, Senator Lesser said, “MEFA made the right decision by leaving NCHER, and I hope it leads to other states’ loan financing agencies — from Maine to Michigan to New Jersey to Pennsylvania — leaving this lobby group as well.”

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Senator Lesser, Rep. Higgins to Unveil Student Loan Bill of Rights Ahead of Senate Vote on Wednesday

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Natalie Higgins will unveil their Student Loan Bill of Rights ahead of the Senate vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Designed to protect student borrowers from predatory student loan servicing companies, S.2380, An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights, empowers state officials to investigate servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Higgins will discuss further measures in the bill and take questions. They will be joined by students and organizers from Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), who can speak to the bill’s importance from a personal perspective.

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Senate Passes Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Bill rewrote mandatory minimums and addressed crimes committed by young people to prevent school-to-prison pipeline, among other measures

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that works to reduce recidivism and divert minors away from incarceration and toward rehabilitation, among other measures.

“Many factors influence who goes to prison, beyond something as simple as a routine traffic stop. From the number of public defenders available to serve the accused to the number of clinic beds available for those who need substance abuse treatment instead of jail time, there are inequalities built into the system and they have long needed a fix,” said Senator Lesser. “This bill took that step, to make our justice system more just, and I am grateful to our local law enforcement, public defenders, advocates and District Attorneys for their input in this ongoing effort.”

The bill, S. 2371 An Act relative to criminal justice reform, strengthens protections for public safety officers in addition to improving prison conditions such as reducing the use of solitary confinement. Among some signature elements of the bill, reforms include expanding judges’ discretion in setting bail amounts and lowering fines and fees in an effort to help defendants get back on their feet and transition successfully back into society.

The bill also strengthens sentencing on the trafficking of opioids such as fentanyl, which has emerged as a leading and dangerous cause of the worsening of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. It designates all federally scheduled opioids as class A drugs, triggering stricter trafficking penalties.

The compromise bill has already passed the State House of Representatives and now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature.

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Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Ensuring Safety, Prevent Undertaxing of Short-Term Rentals

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a bill updating state law to adapt to new ways in which people rent short-term accommodations, such as through the website and mobile app Airbnb.

The bill, S. 2381 An Act regulating and insuring short-term rentals, requires those renting out rooms or properties through websites like Airbnb and HomeAway to obtain a certificate of registration from the state Department of Revenue. It was filed by Sen. Michael J. Rodrigues and co-sponsored by Sen. Lesser.

“This bill levels the playing field so that all those in our hospitality industry, from motels to bed-and-breakfasts and others are treated equally and fairly. Importantly, this law allows for local rules, local zoning, to give flexibility to different communities that have different populations and different needs. Many cities and towns, particularly in Western Mass, experience seasonal tourism due to events like the Big E, Tanglewood and Enshrinement at the Basketball Hall of Fame, and this cyclical economy supports thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector,” said Sen. Lesser.

The bill, which includes elements originally introduced by Sen. Lesser at the beginning of the legislative session, also empowers cities and towns to require registration, licensing and inspection in accordance with local ordinances or by-laws.

The legislation would generate an estimated $34.5 million and $25.5 million in state and local revenues, respectively, based on the most recent Senate Ways and Means Fiscal Impact Report. The expanded tax base will automatically apply to all 175-plus cities and towns that have already adopted the local room occupancy excise to date.

The bill also contains consumer protection measures, including an amendment filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge requiring hosting platforms to maintain liability insurance.

The bill will now be negotiated with House members before a final version is sent to the governor’s desk.

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Senator Lesser Visits Advanced Manufacturing Training Program at Chicopee Comprehensive High School

CHICOPEE — Senator Eric P. Lesser toured the Advanced Manufacturing Training Program at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, which teaches unemployed adults new skills to enter the field of high-tech manufacturing, on Tuesday.

Sen. Lesser sponsored amendments increasing the program’s budget for several years, including highlighting the program in his maiden speech as Senator in 2015.

“Manufacturing may be changing, but it is here to stay. In Western Mass alone, there are thousands of jobs in high-tech manufacturing that go unfilled every year. To keep our manufacturing industry thriving, we have to invest in training programs that give people the skills to fill these jobs and take full advantage of these rewarding careers,” said Senator Lesser.

The program is administered by the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County in collaboration with the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. The program involves 230 hours of training classes over 15 weeks, taught by technical instructors from Chicopee Comprehensive High School and two rotating engineering technicians.

The program model is designed to provide participants with entry-level machining competencies focused primarily on the operation of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) equipment.

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Senator Lesser and Health New England to Host Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair in June

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Health New England announced on Tuesday that they will host the Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair in June.

This year’s fair will be held on Friday June 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Springfield College’s Blake Athletic Complex, located at 263 Alden St., Springfield, MA 01109.

The “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair is free and open to the public. With more than 40 local organizations ranging from health and fitness to nutrition and elder law, the annual fair will connect residents of the First Hampden & Hampshire District with information and resources to help them thrive.

“I’m excited to host this event again this year,” said Senator Lesser. “Last year, we had more than 500 people attend this informational event. This year we are eager to offer an even greater variety of resources, seminars and raffle prizes!”

Health New England is proud to support the second annual “Thrive after 55” Wellness Fair hosted by Senator Lesser.

Maura McCaffrey, President and CEO of Health New England, noted the overwhelming success of the event last year and said, “This year’s event is designed to provide important and reliable information about health, healthcare and lifestyle resources available to anyone 55 years of age and older. With so many quality vendors representing diverse areas of interest it’s a great place to research local services and explore opportunities for active, healthy living.  The Health New England mission is to improve the health and lives of the people in the communities we serve, and we are grateful to be part of the team that makes this event possible.”

The free program includes a boxed lunch, educational seminars, hundreds of raffle prizes, and access to information and experts to talk to. To attend, please call Senator Lesser’s office at 413-526-6501 or visit www.SenatorLesser.com/Thrive to RSVP.

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Senator Lesser and Rep. Ashe Visit Alex’s Bagel Shop for Grand Opening at New Location

LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Brian M. Ashe welcomed Longmeadow breakfast staple Alex’s Bagel Shop to its new location on Tuesday.

Alex’s Bagel Shop is celebrating its grand (re)-opening after moving from its previous address on Williams Street, where it had been for about 50 years, to 398 Longmeadow St.

“We are so happy here in Longmeadow that, even though Alex’s Bagel Shop is moving, it is staying in Longmeadow! This family-owned business has a long history here, and we are glad that this history with our Town will continue. Our local businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we are grateful for their contributions to our communities,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I am thrilled Alex’s Bagel Shop has been able to remain in Longmeadow.   The town, as well as the surrounding community, have enjoyed their food for many years and it has become a regular stop for many.  Small, local businesses are the cornerstone of our economy and Alex’s Bagels is a perfect example of how a local business becomes a valuable part of a community,” said Rep. Ashe.

Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Brian M. Ashe help celebrate the grand re-opening of Alex’s Bagel Shop with owners Alexander and Nina Belyshev.

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Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bond Bill Incentivizing New Affordable Housing Development

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass a housing bond bill authorizing $1.8 billion in investments to preserve and modernize existing affordable housing, and encourage new housing developments, across the Commonwealth.

The bill, S.2368, An Act financing the production and preservation of housing for low and moderate income residents, seeks to address the state’s housing shortage by redeveloping existing housing units and offering a range of tax incentives for developers to build new, affordable units.

“The cost of housing is one of the single greatest challenges facing the state. Boston’s growth spurt will slam to a halt if nobody can afford to live, work or move around. This is also why the state needs an effective, efficient transportation network — including East-West Rail — so that people are not forced to live close to work and can instead force the housing market to be more competitive,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow).

“Our affordable housing shortage has placed the Commonwealth’s financial health at risk,” said Housing Committee Chairman Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop).  “The Housing Bond bill is the first step toward ensuring Massachusetts develops enough affordable housing to support both its workforce and its economic future.”

Critical authorizations in the bill include:

  • $600M for the modernization and redevelopment of the State’s public housing stock;
  • $400M for the development and preservation of affordable and mixed income housing;
  • $125M for the preservation and improvement of existing and expiring use affordable housing;
  • $100M for the preservation and development of workforce housing;
  • $65M for community based housing for individuals living with mental illness or disabilities;
  • $60M for home modification for elderly residents and those living with severe disabilities
  • $50M to incentivize smart growth production and transit oriented developments;
  • $45M for the capital investments in early education and out of school programs for low income residents.

The bill also extends and expands critical tax credits to incentivize the development and modernization of the Commonwealth’s housing stock.

The bill will now be reconciled with a version passed by the House of Representatives.

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