Category: Press Release

Sen. Eric Lesser Votes with Senate to Pass Bill Funding Statewide Road and Bridge Projects

Sen. Eric P. Lesser voted with the Senate today to allocate a total of $200 million for annual road and bridge repair projects in Massachusetts, including $702,764 for the Town of Ludlow.

“Our cities and towns rely on this money to pave roads, fix sidewalks and complete other projects that their own local budgets can’t support,” Senator Lesser said.  “Poorly maintained roads and bridges are not only a threat to public safety–they also cost the average driver $478 per year in wear-and-tear and repair costs.”

“These funds will go a long way in helping cities and towns pay for road and bridge repairs,” Sen. Lesser said. “However, for many communities it may not still be enough. I’m working hard to ensure cities and towns receive the local aid they need to fund these vital repair projects.”

The Chapter 90 program was enacted in 1973 and allows cities and towns to receive state reimbursement for various local road, bridge and infrastructure repair projects.

Sen. Eric Lesser Welcomes Israeli Legislators to State House

Sen. Eric P. Lesser welcomed members of the Israeli Knesset, the country’s legislative branch, to the State House Wednesday.

“It’s important for Massachusetts, and especially for us here in the Springfield area, to build strong partnerships with Israel,” Sen. Lesser said. “I was glad to welcome these legislators to the State House and to build upon the strong ties between Israel and Western Massachusetts.”

Last fall, Sen. Lesser hosted Israeli Consul General to New England Yehuda Yaakov on a tour of the Greater Springfield area as part of an effort to open new economic and cultural partnerships.

“Israel is a growing market for our region’s goods, services and know-how, and with new nonstop flights between Boston and Tel Aviv, along with rail improvements and a growing tech scene in the Pioneer Valley, the economic ties between our two locations will grow even stronger.”

Massachusetts is home to more than 200 Israeli businesses that produce a combined $6 billion in annual revenue.


Sen. Eric Lesser Votes with Senate to Pass Bill Raising Cap on Solar Projects

Sen. Eric P. Lesser today voted with the Senate to pass a bill that raises the limit on the amount of solar energy public and private customers can sell back to energy grids, known as the net metering cap.

“Until now, failure to lift the net metering cap was forcing the delay of hundreds of projects that help businesses, local governments and households reduce their energy bills and promote clean energy. Lifting the cap allows these projects to move forward.”

Net metering is a practice in which utility customers with solar panels can sell power back to their local power grid, and is one of the incentives the Commonwealth offers to encourage clean energy production.

Specifically, the bill lifts the net metering cap by 3 percent for both public and private solar projects. It also allows all existing solar projects, along with projects for schools and municipalities, to receive the highest reimbursement rate allowed by current law. The Commonwealth has set a goal of producing 1600 megawatts of solar power, enough electricity to power almost 250,000 homes annually, by the year 2020.

In February, Sen. Lesser published an op-ed on the importance of promoting solar power, especially in Western Massachusetts, which has the state’s highest density of clean energy employment.

In the op-ed, Sen. Lesser noted that the solar industry’s rapid growth is helping many local governments save taxpayer money. For example, solar power will save East Longmeadow $125,000 on annual utility bills. Savings generated by Ludlow’s solar field are estimated at $100,000 to $140,000 per year.

In addition, community leaders in Hampden are also aiming to develop a town landfill into a solar field, a project that can now move forward due to the bill’s raising of the cap.

“For generations, the Pioneer Valley has been at the cutting edge of industrial change. Just as Springfield led the way in the 20th Century with the first gas-powered automobile, in the 21st Century we can lead the way as a center for clean technology and all the savings that come with it,” Sen. Lesser wrote.

The bill passed the House earlier this week and now heads to Gov. Baker’s desk for his signature into law.

Senator Eric Lesser Submits Bipartisan Letter Requesting Freeze on Plan to Breed Rattlesnakes in the Quabbin Reservoir

Sen. Eric P. Lesser submitted a letter to Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton requesting a freeze in further plans to breed venomous rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island in the Quabbin Reservoir, pending further legislative oversight.

“Public safety is paramount to our communities, and the Commonwealth’s plan to breed venomous rattlesnakes in Quabbin Reservoir leaves a lot of unanswered questions,” Sen. Lesser said.

The letter is co-signed by Quabbin-area legislators, including Senator Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer), Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and Representatives Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) and Todd M. Smola (R-Warren), all of whom represent areas surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir.

In the letter, the legislators state:

“It is our hope that any action on the plan to introduce Timber Rattlesnakes to the Quabbin Reservoir will be frozen pending an oversight hearing by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on May 10, 2016.”

A copy of the letter was also sent to Gov. Charlie Baker, Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy, and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Director Jack Buckley. A full copy of the letter is attached below.

The plan to breed venomous Timber Rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island was introduced by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and has been met with concern from local residents.

A primary concern is that the introduction of the snakes could deter visitors from using the popular recreation area surrounding the reservoir, and that any snakebite-related incident could lead to the area’s closure.

The Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the United States. The area surrounding the Reservoir serves as a popular recreational area that supports hiking, snowshoeing, hunting and shoreline fishing.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Eric Lesser Submits Bipartisan Letter Requesting Freeze on Plan to Breed Rattlesnakes in the Quabbin Reservoir

Senate President Rosenberg and Senator Eric P. Lesser Visit UMass Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Science, Host Millennial Engagement Roundtable

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Senator Eric P. Lesser, co-Chair of the Massachusetts Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative, hosted the second in a series of roundtable events at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on March 25.

The roundtable, which featured students from UMass, Amherst College, Mt. Holyoke, Smith College and Hampshire College, covered a range of topics from immigration to sexual assault on college campuses. Other issues discussed included ways the state can help curb the opioid addiction epidemic, including a landmark bill passed by the House and Senate and signed by Governor Baker in March.

“Today we listened to students and learned about the issues that matter to them,” Sen. Lesser said. “It’s our goal to turn these insights into concrete legislation that addresses the concerns and ideas young people share. Millennials are already being asked to assume responsibility for the growth of our economy and the well-being of our communities—the least we can do is pay attention to their needs.”

The visit to the Commonwealth’s flagship university also featured a meeting with graduate students and professors from the new College of Information and Computer Science. There, the Senators learned how students, faculty and researchers are using data science to improve government services and open new opportunities in fields as diverse as healthcare, energy, banking and public safety.

“The jobs of the future require expertise in data science and analysis,” Sen. Lesser said. “Attracting and retaining this type of talent in the Commonwealth, particularly in Western Massachusetts, is critical to building a strong and durable state economy.”

Millennials, or those born after 1980, are now the largest and most diverse generation in the United States. While a large portion of millennials are heavily involved in community service, a recent Harvard University survey found that only seven percent of millennials reported having participated in government.

The Millennial Engagement Initiative, chaired by Sen. Lesser, was announced in February by Senate President Stan Rosenberg. The initiative aims to encourage more millennials to become involved in politics and government, and to gain their input in the legislative process.

“Millennials’ voices and participation in government are needed now more than ever,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m confident this new initiative will encourage more young people to engage in the legislative process.”

Elected to his first term at the age of 29, Sen. Lesser is the youngest member of the Massachusetts Senate.

/ In Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senate President Rosenberg and Senator Eric P. Lesser Visit UMass Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Science, Host Millennial Engagement Roundtable

Senator Eric P. Lesser Congratulates Participants in U.S. Citizenship Naturalization Ceremony

Senator Eric P. Lesser spoke at a naturalization and citizenship ceremony held at Ludlow High School on March 25.

Joining Ludlow Board of Selectmen Chairperson Carmina Fernandes, Sen. Lesser offered his congratulations to the 260 candidates who took the Oath of Allegiance and became naturalized American citizens.

“I want to thank each and every one of you for what you have done today,” Sen. Lesser said in his remarks to the 260 new citizens and their families. “There is a debt of gratitude that your children and their children will owe you for making that sacrifice to become a United States Citizen, and the door you’ve opened will last for generations.”

The ceremony participants represented more than 64 nations including Portugal, Ireland, Turkey and Vietnam, and are current residents of Belchertown, Chicopee, Longmeadow, Springfield, East Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham.

Sen. Eric Lesser Nominates Wilbraham Resident for Citizens’ Legislative Seminar

Sen. Eric P. Lesser nominated Wilbraham resident and retired Police Sergeant Glen Clark to participate in the 76th Annual Citizens’ Legislative Seminar, held this week at the State House.

“This seminar is a great opportunity for Massachusetts residents to see firsthand how our state government works,” Sen. Lesser said. “I’m proud to have nominated Sgt. Clark, who has set an example of how to be an active contributor to our community and has pledged to take all he’s learned at this week’s seminar to motivate others to become more involved in local and state government.”

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

Seminar activities included an overview of the history and process of the legislature, along with discussion on how to make one’s voice heard in the legislative process.

The two-day seminar culminated with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session in which participants were invited to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.

Senator Eric P. Lesser Welcomes Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb, First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, to the State House

Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined the Massachusetts Senate in welcoming Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb, who 50 years ago became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, to the Statehouse.

“I’m deeply moved. This is a great honor. So many of you are working to make this a better world. Thank you,” Gibb said in her brief remarks to the Senate.

Gibb ran an unsanctioned race in 1966 before women were allowed to compete in the 26.2-mile race from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay. Women were finally allowed to participate as official entrants in 1972, according to the Boston Athletic Association, which this year named Gibb the grand marshal for the marathon, set to take place on Patriot’s Day, April 18.

At the age of 23 in 1966 Gibb traveled from California to Massachusetts, where her family lived in Winchester, and hid in bushes near the Hopkinton starting line, joining the marathoners shortly after the starting gun, according to the athletic association. Gibb finished in 3 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds.

Sen. Eric Lesser’s Amendment Making Financial Aid Information Available by Mobile Device Passes in Senate

A bill passed by the Senate this week included an amendment filed by Senator Eric P. Lesser, which requires higher education institutions to help make financial aid and scholarship information available via mobile devices.

The bill, An Act relative to uniform financial aid, requires all higher education institutions to provide a uniform “shopping sheet” of financial aid information to students before they enroll, allowing easier comparison of financial aid options between institutions.

“We know that student debt and college affordability is a growing burden,” Sen. Lesser said. “The purpose of this bill is to give parents and students a clear menu of the different options available to them, whether from scholarships, loans or other sources.”

“I’m glad the Senate also passed my amendment to this bill, which makes this financial aid information available via mobile device, to ensure ease of access to prospective students and their families,” he added.

A recent Pew Research survey of millennials found that 7 in 10 respondents used their phone to do online banking or to look up information about a job, indicating a high reliance on mobile devices to receive crucial information.

“The best way to ensure prospective college students have all the tools they need to make responsible financial decisions is to put that information where it’s most useful to them,” Sen. Lesser said.

Sen. Lesser is the co-chair of the Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative, which aims to encourage more millennials to become involved in politics and government, and to gain their input in the legislative process.

Senator Eric Lesser Sponsors Mass. Department of Mental Health Citizen’s Legislative Breakfast

Senator Eric Lesser sponsored the annual Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Western Mass Area Citizen’s Legislative Breakfast, held March 18 at Springfield Technical Community College.

The event provided an opportunity for people with mental illness, family members, providers and advocates to interact with state legislators.

“Connection to a community is crucial for those who are struggling or in recovery and can open the door to jobs, a home, healthy relationships and validation of one’s worth as a person. Advocates are often the bridge to this community, making the work that you all do extremely important,” Senator Lesser said in an address to attendees. “If we all work together, we can make a care system that is more strength-based and person-centered.”

“This is an opportunity for the mental health community—consumers, families, providers and advocates—to meet with their legislators, thank them for their support and discuss with them the many services DMH provides to individuals with serious mental illness,” said Department of Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula.

The event’s centerpiece was a series of personal stories shared by Department of Mental Health consumers and their families, which aimed to put a face on mental illness. The breakfast also served to demonstrate that people with mental illness can recover, achieve important accomplishments and lead satisfying and productive lives. During the event, the Department of Mental Health also presented Senator Lesser with a certificate of appreciation.

More than 250 people attended the breakfast, including legislators, consumers, family members and mental health advocates.