Category: Press Release

State FY16 Budget Increases Aid to Hampden-Wilbraham School District with Sen. Lesser’s Support

Senator Eric P. Lesser announced a $2.5 million increase in funding for regional school transportation in the FY16 state budget, signed into law recently by Governor Baker. This funding increase will boost the reimbursement rate for regional school districts to 73 percent, including an additional $250,000 for Hampden-Wilbraham. In 2011, the reimbursement rate was 58 percent.

“School districts should not need to worry about how much they’ll be reimbursed by the state for school busing costs,” Lesser said. “This measure will provide much-needed relief, allowing districts to focus their resources inside the classroom, and I hope it will be a strong starting point for increases in future budgets.”

In 2014, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District faced a significant budget shortfall when state aid for school transportation was abruptly cut.

This funding reverses those cuts and will mean significant relief for the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District, granting the ability to restore at least four full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions within the district’s fiscal year 2016 budget.

“As a regional school district, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District is very appreciative of our legislative delegation’s efforts and advocacy to increase Regional Transportation funding,” said Hampden-Wilbraham School Superintendent Martin O’Shea.

“The Regional Transportation funding is critically important to larger rural and suburban school districts like the HWRSD. This increase will provide the HWRSD with the opportunity to restore needed programs and services to the children of the District.”

“This increase is critically important to our school district. Regional School Transportation funding has been a big concern, and this increase will go a long way to help the district.  I’m glad to have supported this increase especially in this tight budget,” said Representative Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield).

The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District faces rising costs for busing students, crowding out resources previously dedicated to student learning. Senator Lesser has made relief for local school districts a top priority of his work in the State Senate.

Sen. Lesser Secures Funding for Hampden Memorial Park Playground in State Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the final version of the state budget included $16,000 for renovations to an existing playground in Hampden’s Memorial Park. The funding, which helps fill a funding gap needed to complete improvements to the playground, originated from an amendment to the Senate budget filed by Senator Lesser.

“As the father of a young daughter, I know how important it is have a place to spend time with your children,” Lesser said. “These renovations will provide a much-needed gathering space for the families of Hampden and the surrounding community.”

“Being a parent myself as well as having three nephews in the town of Hampden, I know how important it is to have safe, fun places for our children,” said Representative Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow). “I’m very happy for the children, their families and friends who will be able to utilize this playground.”

“We are extremely appreciative of the work of Senator Lesser in bringing our tax dollars back to our community and our children,” said Hampden Selectman John Flynn. “Even after this appropriation was vetoed by the Governor’s office, Eric fought to bring it back into the final budget.”  

The funding secured by the amendment will help ensure the playground is ADA-compliant and wheelchair accessible, make safety upgrades to the ground surface and improve water drainage.

Innovative Communities Bill Co-sponsored by Sen. Eric Lesser Passes Massachusetts Senate

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted for legislation to create a new Innovative Communities program to help municipalities partner with Massachusetts startup companies to help expand and improve access to public services. The bill passed in the Massachusetts Senate and will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

“This bill makes it easier for local governments to make their services more accessible to their communities, and for tech companies to build a stronger public sector customer base,” Sen. Lesser said. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) filed the legislation in collaboration with many stakeholders in the startup community.

“We have an incredibly strong innovation economy here in Massachusetts. It’s time for our government to be innovative too,” said Sen. Spilka. “This first-of-its-kind program is the product of a collaborative, interactive process, and it will foster stronger connections and opportunities for startups and local governments.”

Senate Bill 1982, An Act relative to innovative communities, establishes the Innovative Communities Office within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to connect and educate Massachusetts startups and municipalities. Startups will have the opportunity to sell their technology to cities and towns that choose to be designated as “Innovative Communities.”

Cities or towns that choose to participate in the program must opt-in through a local vote, make non-confidential municipal data available to the public, attend at least one Innovative Communities event or exposition and beta test at least one technology through the program each year.

The bill also includes education to help startups understand how they can sell to government and help municipalities understand opportunities to purchase from startups. The program will hold marketing events and expositions for startups to showcase their technology to municipalities and host statewide innovation competitions to identify market-ready technologies for the needs of municipalities. It will also vet the commercial readiness of technologies in the program and provide technical assistance to municipalities purchasing these technologies.

The bill also creates an Innovative Communities Advisory Board to keep startups and government connected and a Special Commission to study the way government purchases technology.

Sens. Lesser and Welch Secure $100,000 In State FY16 Budget for Spirit of Springfield

The House and the Senate have included an amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) and co-sponsored by Senator James T. Welch (D-West Springfield) in the state FY16 budget that will provide $100,000 for the Spirit of Springfield.

“From the Parade of Big Balloons to Bright Nights, from the 4th of July fireworks to the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast, events put on by the Spirit of Springfield fill our region with pride and attract tens of thousands of visitors to our region every year,” Lesser said. “These funds will allow the Spirit of Springfield to further their mission of promoting community pride and allow more people to learn about all the great events happening in Springfield.”

“The Spirit of Springfield does wonderful work showcasing all Springfield has to offer, both to residents and to visitors,” said Senator James T. Welch (D-Springfield). I’m happy that the funding for this important organization is included in the FY16 budget, and I look forward to a great year of exciting events in the city.”

“The Spirit of Springfield is honored to have the support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the legislators who passed the amendment that will allow us to continue to make lasting memories for families, friends and visitors,” said Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt.

The Spirit of Springfield coordinates several large-scale annual community events each year in the Pioneer Valley that enhance quality of life by fostering a sense of community, civic pride and opportunities for celebration.

Funding for the program awaits now final approval from Governor Baker.

Sen. Lesser Votes in Favor of Senate Resolution Encouraging Greater Female Representation in Corporate Leadership

The state Senate unanimously voted this week in favor of a resolution encouraging fair and diverse gender representation on boards of companies in the Commonwealth. The legislation encouraging gender equity in corporate leadership was co-sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow).

“Women bring a unique and much-needed perspective to corporate decisions, whether in hiring, marketing or growth strategies,” Lesser said. “Greater gender diversity in corporate leadership results in more competitive and ultimately more successful companies.”

The resolution, sponsored by Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), encourages privately held and publicly traded companies in Massachusetts to have a minimum of three women directors on boards of nine or more and a minimum of two women directors on boards with fewer than nine directors by December 31, 2018.

It also asks companies to measure their progress toward a goal of equal representation of men and women in leadership positions on an annual basis.

Just 16 percent of corporate board seats nationally and less than 15 percent in Massachusetts are held by women. One-quarter of the largest companies in Massachusetts do not include any women on their boards of directors, according to data from The Boston Club, an organization of women executives and professionals in the Northeast region.

The resolution will now be considered by the House of Representatives.

Sen. Lesser signs letter supporting gender pay equity bill

Senator Lesser has signed a letter supporting “An act to establish pay equity,” introduced as S.983 and H.1733, to ensure that women are paid the same as men for comparable work.

Specifically, the bill:

  • prohibits companies from maintaining wage confidentiality policies or disciplining employees for discussing their salaries
  • lengthen the time an employee has to bring a pay discrimination suit from one to three years and allow for the awarding of attorneys’ fees
  • clarify that analysis of “comparable” work must be based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions
  • allow an employer to defend itself against gender discrimination claims if the company conducts a self-evaluation of workplace job classifications and wage rates.
  • require companies to post a minimum salary in job ads and pay any hire at least that amount and would make it illegal for an employer to use salary history in hiring.

An electronic version of the letter is available at the below link:

Sen. Lesser Equal Pay Letter

Sen. Lesser Secures Funding in State FY16 Budget for Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative Manufacturing Training Program

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the FY16 state budget, signed by Governor Baker, includes $214,000 to fund a Manufacturing Training Program run by the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC). Senator Lesser was successful in obtaining the $214,000 originally through an amendment that was approved by both branches of the Legislature.

“This funding will allow high school students from across the Pioneer Valley to receive top-level training in manufacturing and other technical skills, which are highly in demand in today’s economy,” Lesser said. “I’m glad the House, Senate and Governor stand with me on the importance of closing the manufacturing skills gap and revitalizing our regional economies.”

The program will allow the LPVEC to develop a machine technology program for students in grades 9-12 and will serve the school districts of Agawam, East Longmeadow, Hampden-Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Southwick-Tolland-Granville and West Springfield.

“Our member districts have supported this new program with significant local funds, but state-of-the-art equipment is expensive,” said Andrew Churchill, LPVEC Executive Director.  “We are very grateful for this additional state support, which will ensure that our students will graduate ready for our region’s cutting-edge manufacturers.”

There are 214 manufacturing companies whose principal place of business is located in school districts served by the LPVEC, creating opportunity to directly link students to job vacancies in their immediate area.

Lesser, who is Senate Chair of the Joint Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, recently hosted a delegation of Senate members at EASTEC, a convention of over 500 manufacturing companies in the Northeast, at the Big E grounds in West Springfield. He also recently published an op-ed on the widening manufacturing skills gap in Massachusetts, especially in the Pioneer Valley.

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Senator Lesser Votes to Expand Solar Power

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted Thursday in favor of a climate change preparedness bill that included a measure to further incentivize the expansion of solar electricity in Massachusetts.

“This common-sense measure will allow people to use more clean energy in their homes and incentivize the use of solar power,” Lesser said. “It’s an important step in our efforts to expand sustainable energy sources and ensure Massachusetts stays on the leading edge of climate change policy.”

The amendment, introduced by Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and attached to a broader climate change preparedness bill authored by Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), would lift the cap to 1,600 megawatts of solar power, consistent with the goal set by former Governor Deval Patrick to develop 1,600 megawatts of solar power by 2020. Governor Charlie Baker is in support of the state’s goal as well.

The measure received bipartisan support and the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), calling it a “prudent course of action,” during the Senate debate.

Net metering, which allows utility customers with solar panels to sell power back to the grid at retail rates, is one of the incentives offered to encourage clean energy production. The current caps limit solar development to 4 percent of peak electricity load for private projects and 5 percent for public projects, with no limit on residential projects.

Starting with only a couple of megawatts of solar production in 2007, solar energy in Massachusetts now totals roughly 860 megawatts.

The climate change preparedness bill will now move to the House for consideration and debate.

Sen. Eric Lesser Announces $53,000 Green Community Grant for Town Of Belchertown

State Senator Eric P. Lesser announced that the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has awarded the Town of Belchertown $53,022 to fund improvements aimed at reducing fuel consumption for town vehicles and increasing energy efficiency for town buildings.

“This grant is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of Belchertown, including reducing its energy consumption, purchasing efficient vehicles and amending its building code to the latest standards,” Lesser said. “These funds will continue to position Belchertown as a leader in clean energy.”

The grant will fund the installation of an Electronic Fuel Management System and software for municipal vehicles, as well as the establishment of a behavioral-based energy program.

It will also fund the installation of a new efficient boiler at Old Town Hall and installation of new exterior storm windows at the Freedom Center Building and Recreation Center Building.

“Belchertown has invested nearly 4 million dollars in energy efficiency projects over the past 5 years, resulting in nearly $300,000 in annual savings and a considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gary Brougham, Belchertown Town Administrator. “These additional funds will provide additional savings and a greater reduction in emissions. We greatly appreciate the continuing support of the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.”

“The awarding of this grant continues to give a community like Belchertown an alternative energy source,” said Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow). “It will help to defray the rising costs that are incurred by traditional energy sources. Belchertown continues to be a leader in finding cost-efficient and energy-saving alternatives.”

“I would like to thank the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for this funding and congratulate Belchertown on their receipt of this award.  Any initiative that reduces consumption and saves our communities money is a winner,” said Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol).

Grant recipients are required to adopt an expedited permit process for renewable energy facilities, develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years, purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles and set requirements to minimize energy costs for new construction.