Category: Press Release

A Statement from Senator Eric P. Lesser Regarding the Columbia Gas Explosions in the Merrimack Valley:

SPRINGFIELD — Today, following the tragic events in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on Thursday evening, Senator Eric P. Lesser released the following statement:

“I express my condolences to the families of the Merrimack Valley who have lost their homes and all of those hurt by this tragedy. I’d also like to thank the first responders on the ground for their quick response and life-saving work.

“In light of yesterday’s tragic events in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, I am calling on the Department of Public Utilities to conduct a statewide investigation of Columbia Gas operations, including an immediate plan for fixing the hundreds of gas leaks already known and identified across our Commonwealth. Until that investigation and plan is complete, there must be a halt to new permitting and construction, including the proposed Longmeadow metering station.

“Unfortunately, our region has seen the devastating impact of gas leaks. Springfield experienced an explosion as recently as 2012 that caused widespread damage.

“It shouldn’t take a tragedy to force action. Enough is enough. Columbia Gas has a moral obligation to protect the public and to fix their infrastructure.”

Sen. Lesser represents Springfield, Chicopee, Ludlow, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Wilbraham, and Granby which accounts for 50 percent of Columbia Gas’ service area in Western Massachusetts.

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Sen. Lesser Cuts Ribbon at New Christopher Heights Housing Complex in Belchertown

BELCHERTOWN — Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined local officials, including Reps. Susannah Whipps and Tom Petrolati and Board of Selectmen members Brenda Aldrich, Ed Boscher and Gail Gramarossa, to cut the ribbon officially opening the Christopher Heights Assisted Living Facility in Belchertown on Wednesday.

“This is yet another major development happening in Belchertown. This one is particularly exciting because it is the first new property opened on the old State School site, the first major step toward redeveloping and reusing this land that has been vacant for far too long,” said Sen. Lesser.

The project was supported in part by a MassWorks infrastructure grant. Representatives from MassDevelopment and MassHousing were also present to celebrate the opening.

Photo below:

Sen. Lesser speaks at the opening of Christopher Heights in Belchertown.

Sen. Lesser, Rep. Whipps Visit Site of Future Splash Park in Belchertown

BELCHERTOWN — Sen. Eric P. Lesser and Rep. Susannah Whipps visited the site of the future Belchertown splash park on Wednesday after securing state budget funds to build the park.

The new splash park will be built in place of several tennis courts located near Chestnut Hill School which have fallen into disrepair. The park will redevelop land that is currently underutilized and unsafe for small children

“There’s a lot of new developments in Belchertown, and this park will be yet another exciting recreational opportunity for families to enjoy. Through a lot of hard work and coordination with Town officials, we were able to secure this critical funding that will add to the quality of life for our residents,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I was proud to advocate for this project with Senator Lesser and Representative Petrolati.  This beautiful recreational area fits perfectly within Belchertown’s plan for more community space to be enjoyed by families for years to come,” said Rep. Whipps.

The legislature overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the budget amendment that allocated funding to build the splash park. The Governor signed the final budget in August.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Whipps speak about what this new splash park will mean for the community in Belchertown.
Sen. Lesser views renderings of the new splash park that will be built in Belchertown using funds secured in the state budget.

Sen. Lesser, Western Mass. Legislators Send Letter Requesting Faster Handicap Placard Service for Western Mass. Residents

Western Mass. residents can wait over a month for handicap parking permits, even after being assured the wait time would be reduced

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser, along with 13 fellow legislators representing each of the four Western Massachusetts counties, sent a letter on Monday to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack urging a reduction in wait times for Western Mass. residents applying for temporary handicap placards.

The request comes after a July 19 report by NEPR revealed that Western Mass. residents recovering from injuries can be forced to wait for about a month to receive a temporary handicap placard, with some waiting six weeks or more.

Western Mass. legislators previously addressed the problem with Secretary Pollack in 2016. They received a letter in response from Erin Deveney, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, which claimed that there is an expedited process for temporary placards that had not been followed in Western Mass. RMV offices. Deveney wrote that the RMV would “educate staff further on the best ways the RMV can serve temporary disability parking applicants.”

But the report by NEPR shows that the problem persists.

“It is disturbing to us that we were assured this problem would be fixed only to discover, two years later, that it has not been,” the legislators’ letter reads in part.

“Moreover, this is clearly a pattern in which residents of Western Massachusetts continue to be treated as second-class citizens with unequal access to the state resources enjoyed by residents of Eastern Massachusetts,” the letter also says.

“We were assured two years ago that this problem was fixed, and that wait times for handicap placards would be the same for residents of Western Mass and those living in the Greater Boston area. But that is not the case,” Sen. Lesser said. “Instead, we have a situation where Western Mass continues to be treated unfairly and continues to receive second-rate service despite paying the same taxes.”

In the letter, the legislators urge Secretary Pollack and Deveney to implement the expedited process they claimed was in place for applicants seeking temporary handicap placards. Failing this, the legislators asked Secretary Pollack for her recommendations on potential legislative fixes to the situation, such as a bill that the House and Senate could pass, if necessary.

Finally, the letter requests a concrete plan from the transportation secretary to fix the problem, and explain why it persists two years after the legislators had been assured it would be solved.

The full list of legislators requesting action is below:

  • Senator Eric P. Lesser
  • Senator James T. Welch
  • Senator Anne M. Gobi
  • Senator Adam G. Hinds
  • Senator Donald F. Humason, Jr.
  • Representative Jose F. Tosado
  • Representative Bud L. Williams
  • Representative John W. Scibak
  • Representative Paul W. Mark
  • Representative Brian M. Ashe
  • Representative Smitty Pignatelli
  • Representative Stephen Kulik
  • Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose
  • Representative Carlos González

Read the full letter here.

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Lesser Amendment to Fund East Forest Park Branch Library Makes it into Final Budget

BOSTON — A budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser that provides $75,000 in state funding to fund computers and other furnishings for the new East Forest Park Branch Library has made it into the final state budget for fiscal year 2019.

The new East Forest Park Branch Library will be located on Surrey Road in Springfield, adjacent to Mary Dryden School and the new Pope Francis High School, and is expected to open in 2019.

“Libraries are the great equalizer, giving everyone equal access to information and the tools to succeed. The residents of East Forest Park have been without a full-service library for the better part of the last 50 years, and I’m excited to see this neighborhood have a permanent library of its own,” said Sen. Lesser. “I’m also eager to see this neighborhood revitalized after the 2011 tornado, and this library, alongside the new Pope Francis High School, will contribute to that renewal.”

“This is another great win for our new East Forest Park Library, and will further enhance the learning experience at the library. I am proud to help bring this money and project home,” said Rep. Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr.

The library’s new location will be a permanent home for the library, which is currently located in a shopping plaza on Island Pond Road. Limited by its size, the library — which is the second busiest in the City of Springfield — has only eight computers and no space for teens.

The funding will be used specifically to purchase computers and other technology resources to support computer literacy.

The legislature overrode a number of Gov. Baker’s budget vetoes, including the funding allocated for the library. The funding will be in the final budget signed by the Governor, but he still must release the funds.

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Sen. Lesser Visits Local Business Harmed by Trump Tariffs

Manufacturer forced to look overseas for a supplier to fulfill product orders

Lesser: “I came here today as a show of support and solidarity for our local employers and to say to the President, ‘Enough is enough, end this trade war!’”

WILBRAHAM — Senator Eric P. Lesser visited Norpin Manufacturing in Wilbraham on Monday after sales manager Luke Pincince alerted him to the difficulties the company has had since the Trump Administration imposed tariffs on goods and materials imported from China, including steel and aluminum.

Overnight, Norpin Manufacturing saw a 40 percent increase in costs as soon as the tariffs were put in place, according to Pincince, of Palmer.

Norpin, family-owned and operated since 1956, manufactures a variety of products such as cans, boxes, canisters, and custom-made instrument housings and casings for the food, aviation, medical, automotive, electronics and aerospace industries.

The company uses a very specific type of  aluminum, but because of its smaller size, Norpin’s U.S. suppliers pushed it down the supply chain order when they were overrun with demand because of Trump’s tariffs.

Now, Norpin has been forced to look overseas, and is switching from an American supplier to one in Mexico.

“In Massachusetts, we are doing our part. We have invested in a well-educated workforce, focused on new initiatives around vocational education and supporting our local businesses and workers, but all of that is at risk if we can’t sell Massachusetts-made products to markets around the world. Western Mass has been a manufacturing center for two centuries, going back to George Washington’s Armory. These tariffs, unilaterally imposed by President Trump, are now hurting our family-owned businesses in Wilbraham and will eventually lead to fewer jobs,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I came here today as a show of support and solidarity for our local employers and to say to the President, ‘Enough is enough, end this trade war!’” Sen. Lesser added.

The tariffs affect billions of dollars worth of goods, with import taxes on another $16 billion worth of Chinese products expected to go into effect this week. China has responded by levying its own retaliatory tariffs on products U.S. companies export to China.

Consumers will soon see the effect of these tariffs in increased prices for everyday goods and services — including the cost of maintaining their cars, according to AutoZone and other car parts stores. The price of tires, windshield wipers and mirrors are all expected to increase.

The Massachusetts fishing industry is also being hurt by the tariffs. In a letter to Trump, members of Congress called on the administration to give relief to fishermen who need steel and aluminum for their boats, fishing hooks and lobster and crab traps. China has also leveled a 25 percent retaliatory tariff on 170 American seafood products.

Sales Manager Luke Pincince shows Sen. Eric Lesser the products Norpin manufacturers.
From left to right: Sen. Eric P. Lesser, Owner Mark Pincince, Tim Regan of Yard Metals and Sales Manager Luke Pincince.

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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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