Category: Press Release

Sen. Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Judicial Court’s Decision Taking an Income Surtax on State’s Highest Earners Off the Ballot

Offers Regional Ballot Initiatives as Potential Solution to Funding Gap

SPRINGFIELD — Following today’s decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that a proposed income surtax on the state’s highest earners cannot be on the November ballot, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“This decision by the state’s highest court will have the greatest impact on our communities in Western Massachusetts, which have long struggled to gain attention and financial support from Beacon Hill. We have consistently asked the state, for example, to fully fund our Regional Transit Authorities and fully reimburse our regional school districts for the costs of maintaining a fleet of school buses to transport our students. This ballot proposal was a potential solution to this historic funding gap.

“Instead, today’s decision means our Commonwealth’s infrastructure will continue to deteriorate and our schools will be less competitive. But we have options. One is to allow regions to organize their own funding programs for transit projects through Regional Ballot Initiatives. This innovative solution — which has already caught on in other states — would empower cities and towns to band together to decide which projects matter most to them and which they want to fund.

“We need to invest in our schools and our transportation networks. Empowering our local communities to make those decisions when the state won’t is a good place to start.”

Sen. Lesser serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Last year, he introduced a bill, S. 1551, co-sponsored by the late Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham), that would enable cities and towns to raise funds for regional transportation projects by adding initiatives to local election year ballots. The idea enjoys bipartisan support, and has been adopted in states as diverse as California, Kansas and Michigan, as Sen. Lesser and Tim Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, pointed out in an op-ed last month.

Sen. Lesser’s bill passed the Senate in the 2015-2016 session, and this year received an early favorable report out of the Joint Committee on Revenue. It is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Ways on Means.

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/ In News, Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Sen. Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Judicial Court’s Decision Taking an Income Surtax on State’s Highest Earners Off the Ballot

Nearly 1,000 Local Residents Learn about Local Resources at Sen. Lesser’s Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 1,000 area residents turned out to Senator Eric P. Lesser’s second annual “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair” on Friday, June 15 to learn about local resources available to help them plan for retirement.

“I’m thrilled we were able to showcase the services available to people in Western Massachusetts again this year,” said Sen. Lesser. “There are a lot of questions people have at this time in their lives, from planning their healthcare to their housing to their future finances, and our goal was to help provide some of the answers to these challenging questions.”

This year’s fair was held at Springfield College and sponsored by Health New England, whose representatives were on hand to answer questions about applying for Medicare and other services. New England Dermatology and Trinity Health New England also served as sponsors. Prime Magazine, 22 News, The Republican and WMAS served as media sponsors of the fair.

In all, 50 organizations participated, each with a booth to share pamphlets and other materials about their services, from AARP to the City of Springfield’s Office of Elder Affairs to Baystate and Mercy medical centers.

In addition to information, there were also more than 30 raffle prizes and four interactive presentations.

A representative from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office delivered a seminar on avoiding frequently-used scams, and local attorney Todd Ratner of Bacon Wilson gave a presentation on elder law.

Donna Champman, Associate Professor of Nutritional  Sciences at Springfield College, offered nutrition recommendations and suggestions for eating healthy. Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, returned this year to lead the auditorium in a popular yoga session, explaining exercises that could be done while sitting for those with disabilities.

Sen. Lesser plans to hold the fair again next year.

Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, returned to the Fair this year to lead the auditorium in a popular yoga session. (Photo credit: Springfield College)
Sen. Lesser kicks off his second annual “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair,” co-sponsored by Health New England and hosted at Springfield College. (Photo credit: Springfield College)

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Sen. Lesser Votes to Pass Senate’s Clean Energy Bill to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Emissions

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to pass a bill aimed at preparing the state for the effects of climate change, including public health challenges, on Thursday. The bipartisan bill passed on a 35-0 vote.

“There are many ways for us to fight climate change and adapt to its effects. This bill is an important step in doing both,” said Sen. Lesser. “By working to transform our energy efficiency standards and address the effects of climate change on public health, Massachusetts is once again stepping up to lead the nation.”

The bill, S. 2545 An Act to promote a clean energy future, sets ambitious new 2030 and 2040 statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits, lifts the cap on solar net metering, authorizes additional hydropower and offshore wind procurement and implements statewide energy storage goals.

The bill also establishes the state’s first ever carbon pricing mechanism. The revenue-neutral “pollution charge” on fossil fuels would incentivize companies in the transportation, industrial, commercial and residential sectors to use cleaner low-carbon energy sources. The funds raised from the charge would be used to help these companies transition to cleaner fuel sources.

“Future generations of Massachusetts residents depend on our actions today,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation sets Massachusetts on a path towards an even cleaner energy portfolio and invests in the future of our children and their environment. I would like to thank Senators Pacheco, Barrett, and Chairwoman Spilka for their tremendous contributions to this bill, and to the rest of my members for their commitment to clean energy and climate preparedness.”

“It is urgent that we move as quickly as possible to mitigate the worst effects of Global Climate Change.  The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, and the number of extreme weather events that we experience will depend on what we do at the local, state, and national level. The legislation that the MA Senate has passed today promotes a clean energy future that will protect public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create thousands of new clean energy jobs that will continue to benefit Massachusetts and the New England economy,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), who filed the bill.

“Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it. But this isn’t about the Legislature forcing one design, and one design only, upon a governor. We’re firm on timing because the problem is urgent, but we don’t mandate the method,” said Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington).

The bill now heads to the State House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senator Lesser Applauds Announcement that East-West Rail Study Is Moving Forward

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Richard Neal and other local leaders at Union Station on Tuesday to hear the announcement that he and thousands of Western Massachusetts residents have long waited to hear: the state is moving forward with a study of high-speed rail linking Springfield to Boston.

Gov. Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack announced that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is putting out a Request for Proposals to engineering consultants interested in conducting the study to submit their recommended plans and pricing for the study.

“This progress is thanks to the thousands of people in Western Mass who didn’t give up, who didn’t back down, and who made clear to those on Beacon Hill that a study of East-West Rail is a priority for our region,” said Sen. Lesser. “We have fought for this for four years, and at long last, the Administration has heard us. I’m glad that Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack is following through with her promise to the people of Western Mass to begin work on this study, and I’ll look forward to tracking its progress and keeping in contact with Secretary Pollack and Gov. Baker as this study moves forward.”

The study will take 12 to 18 months to complete the necessary review process, and will build off previous work completed by the state and federal government, Gov. Baker said at the press conference.

In January, MassDOT released the draft of its 2018 State Rail Plan, which included a feasibility study of east-west passenger rail service between Boston and Springfield. Today, Secretary Pollak announced that the State Rail Plan is final, and that the study will proceed.

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Senator Lesser Announces Presenters for “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair on June 15

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser announced today that the Second Annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair will feature four seminars on topics ranging from elder law to nutrition and movement.

The fair, which will be held on June 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Springfield College’s Blake Athletic Complex, is free and open to the public.

Attorney Todd Ratner of Bacon Wilson will give a presentation on elder law and estate planning. Dr. Donna Chapman, the Program Director for Nutritional Sciences at Springfield College, will offer evidence-based nutrition recommendations designed to help you protect your heart and your brain, control diabetes and high blood pressure, and ensure that you’re getting enough protein.

Timothy Depin from the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey will provide a “Savvy Seniors” presentation which focuses on scams, financial fraud and Identity Theft. Covered in the presentation are details of some of the most common phone, mail, and computer scams, including the IRS Scam, Grandparent Scam and Tech Support Scam, as well information on how to recognize and protect yourself from these scams.

“The goal of this fair is to provide as much information as possible, so that people walk away feeling better prepared to thrive in retirement. Estate planning is a big part of that, and this will be a helpful presentation on that,” said Sen. Lesser.

Master Yoga Instructor Shelia Magalhaes, owner of Heartsong Yoga Center in East Longmeadow, will also lead participants in an interactive yoga demonstration designed for people of all ages and abilities.

“Sheila’s yoga demonstration was very popular at last year’s fair, so we wanted to make sure to invite her back this year,” said Sen. Lesser.

The “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair is free and open to the public. With 50 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.

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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Senate Passes Life Sciences Bill to Continue Investment in Cutting-Edge Industry Critical to State Economy

Bill extends tax incentives to life sciences industry and authorizes targeted investments in research and training facilities at UMass campuses across the state

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass a bill extending the state’s investment in life sciences research and training to capitalize on the state’s national advantage in the sector responsible for thousands of jobs in the state.

The bill, S.2531, An Act providing continued investment in the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth, extends the state’s life sciences tax incentive program for another ten years, proposes millions of dollars in grants to community colleges and vocational schools to increase employment opportunities, and authorizes spending on initiatives to promote regional efforts to advance innovations in bio-manufacturing. The bill is based on the $1 billion, ten-year initiative launched by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2007.

“The biotech and life sciences industry has been a key component of Massachusetts’ economic progress over the last ten years. Now the challenge is to spread that growth across the state, to regions that have the manufacturing capacity but need the targeted investments to take advantage of this cutting-edge industry and gain access to the jobs of the future,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, which oversaw the bill. “The investments in this industry that we as a state made ten years ago have helped it flourish here in Massachusetts, and now we can’t afford to lose our national edge. Imagine the lost potential if we allow the next vaccine breakthrough, the next big discovery, the next lifesaving drug, to be developed elsewhere. This bill maintains our leadership in this critical industry and offers us tremendous opportunity to expand economic growth across our state.”

“The life sciences and bio-manufacturing industry are job creators and integral parts of Massachusetts’ innovation economy,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “A decade ago, Massachusetts made a fantastic investment in life sciences. Today, the Senate seized the opportunity to spread growth and innovation across the Commonwealth and ensure that Massachusetts remains a national leader in the innovation economy.”

“We truly have a biotech and life sciences supercluster here in Massachusetts, and this bill will ensure we continue to grow and lead the way,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “People across the nation and the world depend upon the cutting-edge medical devices, pharmaceuticals and research under development here, and our investments today in innovation, education and workforce training are critical for our continued growth and success.”

The bill also authorizes spending for innovative new programs at the state’s UMass campuses, including:

  • a biotechnology and precision manufacturing research and training facility at UMass-Amherst
  • a center for nursing innovation at UMass-Boston
  • expansion and renovation of the center for advanced bio-manufacturing and digital health at UMass-Dartmouth
  • a joint proposal between UMass-Lowell and UMass Medical School to advance neuroscience workforce training, research and commercialization of medical devices

The bill will now be reconciled with a version passed by the House of Representatives before going to the governor for his signature.

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Lesser Amendment Increasing Funding to the State’s Boys and Girls Clubs Passes the Senate

BOSTON — On Thursday, the State Senate voted to approve a budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser that increases funding to the state’s Boys and Girls Clubs.

“I’m proud to support the clubs because of the good work they do in several of our communities, including Ludlow, Springfield and Chicopee,” Sen. Lesser said. “These clubs give young people the opportunity not only to succeed, but also to give back. Nearly half of teen members volunteer at least once a month, and nearly all of them graduate high school and go on to post-secondary education. These are the types of programs we should be supporting in our communities.”

Boys and Girls Clubs serve at-risk youth populations, providing a safe and supportive space to learn and become responsible and productive citizens. The Senate amendment increases funding to the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs to $1.7 million to enable the clubs to continue providing quality programming and facilities.

The funding will need to be agreed upon by the House before heading to the Governor for his signature.

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Lesser Amendment Supporting a New Splash Park in Belchertown Passes the Senate

BOSTON — On Thursday, the State Senate voted to approve a budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser that provides $75,000 in state funding for the construction of a new splash park in Belchertown.

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 going on in Belchertown!” Sen. Lesser said. “This new splash park creates yet another recreational opportunity for families to enjoy. I’m thrilled to support the Town in their efforts to boost property values and improve the quality of life for all residents with a safe new place for children to play.”

The funding will need to be agreed upon by the House before heading to the Governor for his signature.

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Lesser Amendment Creating a Security Grant Program for Nonprofits at Risk of Terror Attack Passes the Senate

BOSTON — On Thursday, the State Senate approved a budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser that creates a $150,000 fund to provide security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at risk of terror attack and hate crimes.

Hate crimes and vandalism have been on the rise in Massachusetts and across the country in the past two years. The FBI has reported a high rate of reported hate crimes in Massachusetts based on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Last summer, the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized twice in three months, and bomb threats were called into Jewish Community Centers across the state, including in Springfield.

In Belchertown, copies of the Ku Klux Klan’s Klansmen newspaper were distributed multiple times over the past year.

“It is disturbing that we have to address issues like this at all. But it is a fact that these incidents have been increasing, not decreasing, in our communities. This funding will help protect our families and vulnerable communities, but it is my sincere hope that our values of respect and dignity for every human being will win out in the end,” said Sen. Lesser.

The funding must now be agreed to by the House of Representatives before heading to the Governor for his signature.

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Lesser Amendment Supporting Improvements to the Athletic Field at Minnechaug High School Passes the Senate

BOSTON — On Thursday, the State Senate voted to approve a budget amendment proposed by Senator Eric P. Lesser that provides $75,000 in state funding for enhancements to the athletic field at Minnechaug High School.

The resurfaced turf field will replace the existing field. The state funding will be in addition to an appropriation made by the Town of Wilbraham at its annual Town Meeting earlier this year.

“I’m proud to support Minnechaug Athletics and the Town of Wilbraham in this endeavour,” Senator Lesser said. “This funding will supplement the ongoing efforts on the part of the School Department and Town as they work to ensure that both the school community and broader community have access to a well-maintained playing surface.”

The funding must now be agreed to by the House of Representatives before heading to the Governor for his signature.

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