Category: Press Release

Senate Passes Bill to Promote Civics Education, Including Measures Championed by Senator Lesser

Senate also passed bill promoting financial literacy in schools

BOSTON — The State Senate voted on Thursday to pass a bill promoting civics education, including measures that had been sponsored by State Senator Eric P. Lesser.

The bill, S. 2355, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure that all public schools provide instruction in American history, civics and media literacy, including participation in a civics project that will be a requirement for graduating high school.

The bill also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund and authorizes funding to support civics education projects in schools throughout Massachusetts.

“Civics and news media literacy are critical in an era when we are bombarded by an unprecedented flow of information, from articles to opinions to breaking news and fake news, all delivered to devices in our pockets. As fast as information moves, too many people — especially young people — have felt for too long that our government is not responsive enough, that our politics are not about solving big challenges anymore. Civics education gives people the tools they need to feel empowered and to make a difference,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.

According to research conducted at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, students who recalled memorable civic education experiences were more likely to vote, to form political opinions and to know campaign issues. Researchers also found that civics education does not lead students to favor one party over another.

Also on Thursday, the Senate passed S. 2343, An Act relative to financial literacy in schools, which also included measures Sen. Lesser had introduced this session.

The bill establishes standards for students from kindergarten to grade 12 to learn about loans and interest, credit card debt, rights and responsibilities of buying a home, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes, and planning for retirement. The topics can be incorporated into existing mathematics, social studies or other class curricula.

“A lack of financial and civics knowledge was one of the primary complaints we heard from young people during our Millennial roundtable discussions,” said Sen. Lesser, referencing the conversations Senators held with young people across the state in 2016. “Balancing a checkbook, building credit, using credit cards wisely and planning for retirement are all important tools for managing your finances and preparing for your future — especially when you have to factor in student loans. Our young people need to be prepared for these rites of passage.”

Both bills now go to the State House of Representatives for consideration.


Senator Lesser Receives “Legislative Leadership Award”

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser was honored on Monday by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston with one of two “Legislative Leadership Awards.”

The JCRC traditionally honors one Senator and one Representative with “Legislative Leadership Awards” each year. House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez of Boston was recognized along with Sen. Lesser.

Attorney General Maura Healey was also honored with an “Excellence in Leadership Award,” and Lon Povitch, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Charlie Baker, received an “Executive Leadership Award.”

“We are honored to be presenting an award to a remarkable public servant—Senator Eric Lesser. He has demonstrated we must unite in our commitment to act on an urgent agenda; from civil rights to human services, economic opportunity supporting the vibrant MA-Israel partnership, and the protection of democratic values,” stated Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC. “A well-functioning society and a responsive government would not be possible without outstanding public servants like him.”

“It is humbling to receive this award, and I am grateful to my colleagues, Attorney General Healey, Chairman Sanchez and Lon Povich for their service. I am also grateful to the Western Mass Jewish community, which has built a number of organizations that serve the common good,  from Rachel’s Table, which feeds thousands of hungry people across Western Mass, to the Springfield JCC, where my daughters go to preschool,” said Sen. Lesser. “What makes JCRC so unique is that it works to make Massachusetts a better place, not only for Jewish people but for all people. Its agenda is a universal agenda of justice and peace, and I look forward to continuing our work together toward these goals in our communities.”

Sen. Lesser was introduced by Ronda Parish, President of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

The awards recognize the leadership of public officials in areas that reflect JCRC’s legislative priorities, including promoting and protecting democratic norms, defending civil rights and championing economic opportunity and consumer protection.

The awards were presented at JCRC’s annual Legislative Reception held at the State House.


Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Protecting Puppies and Kittens

BOSTON — On Thursday the State Senate voted to pass a bill improving conditions in the sale of dogs and cats, and ensuring that puppies and kittens are bred and sold in safe and healthy environments.

The bill, S.1155, An Act relative to protecting puppies and kittens, applies safety and breeding standards to protect pets and pet owners. It prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens younger than eight weeks old, increasing the likelihood that they will grow to be healthy dogs and cats, and outlines a process for a veterinarian to declare an animal suffering from a significant adverse health condition “unfit for sale.”

“We all love our pets, and no one should bring home a brand-new puppy or kitten only to find out that they are chronically ill. It’s not fair to the pet owner but it is also unfair to the pet that was raised in unhealthy conditions,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser. “This bill, written in coordination with animal advocates, breeders and pet stores, will keep our pets safer and healthier and protect consumers.”

The bill also strengthens the state’s “Puppy Lemon Law” to give pet owners more options if they unknowingly purchase a sick pet. Remedies available now include the exchange of the animal or a refund and reimbursement for reasonable veterinary fees. The bill also sets forth a procedure for a seller to contest these demands.

“As an animal lover, pet owner and occasional small scale breeder, I am deeply aware of the emotional challenges for families when a pet falls ill, as well as the need to protect the health and safety of young animals,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), lead sponsor of the bill. “This bill is the result of extensive discussion with both breeders and animal rights activists to protect puppies, kittens and pet owners across the Commonwealth.”


Senator Lesser, Sheriff Cocchi and Mayor Kos Read to Fairview Elementary Students for “Celebrity Read Aloud”

CHICOPEE — Senator Eric P. Lesser, Sheriff Nick Cocchi and Mayor Richard Kos all read to different classrooms at Fairview Elementary School in Chicopee as part of Link to Libraries’ annual “Celebrity Read Aloud” day.

Sen. Lesser read “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm to Miss Picard’s third grade class.

Sen. Lesser read “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm.


Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Social Media Privacy Protections

BOSTON — On Thursday the State Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill protecting the personal social media accounts of students and employees.

The bill, S. 2320, An Act relative to social media privacy protection, prevents employers and schools from requesting and requiring access to the personal social media accounts of applicants, employees, and students as a condition of acceptance, employment or participation in school activities.

“Technology has changed how we communicate, but those communications should still have the protections of privacy. Through privacy settings, social media users can decide who to share their thoughts, photos and conversations with, which is essentially no different than a private phone call. No school or employer should be allowed to cross that barrier between people’s public and private lives as a threshold for inclusion in school events or as a basis for employment,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, who is a member of the Special Senate Committee on Cyber Security Readiness.

Sen. Lesser co-sponsored the bill, which includes exceptions for legal inquiries requiring access to social media accounts. Under current law, these inquiries would still be required to follow due process.

“I am proud to have bipartisan support among my Senate colleagues to increase online privacy protections for students and employees across the Commonwealth,” said Senate Majority Leader Creem (D-Newton), who sponsored the bill. “We would never allow employers or schools to read our diaries or journals, open our mail or rifle through our personal photo albums. The private communications and information we store online in our personal social media accounts deserve the same legal protections.”

More than 25 states have already enacted legislation addressing this issue, and bills on this topic are pending in many other jurisdictions. This is the third session in which the Senate has voted favorably on this bill.

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


Senator Lesser on Student Walkouts: “I Hear Them, and I Hope the Rest of Our Country’s Leaders Hear Them.”

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser offered his support to high school students across Massachusetts — and the country — who staged school walkouts on Wednesday to mark the one-month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and demand action on gun violence.

“We stand in solidarity with today’s students. I hear them, and I hope the rest of our country’s leaders hear them as well. The time for action to protect our schools and our children from gun violence is long overdue, and these young people are leading the charge to make sure we take that action. There’s never been a great change or social movement in our society that hasn’t been led by young people. From Parkland to Springfield, young people are standing up to make a difference in their community — and their impact is being felt around the country,” said Sen. Lesser.

The peaceful walkouts were planned by students in coordination with school administration officials.


Senator Lesser Visits Blueberry Hill Elementary School for “Read Across America Day”

LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser read to students at Blueberry Hill Elementary School in Longmeadow on Friday as part of “Read Across America Day,” a national initiative to encourage reading to children.

Held on March 2, the day also recognizes the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Senator Lesser read “What Do You Do with an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada.

“The story of how a small idea can grow to change the world is a great sentiment for these young people. They can change the world, too!” Senator Lesser said.


Senator Lesser Meets with Hampden, Wilbraham Select Boards

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, Senator Eric P. Lesser met with the Hampden Select Board and the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen to discuss new and ongoing challenges and opportunities. Sen. Lesser meets regularly with the local leaders of the nine communities he represents.

“I am grateful to the Wilbraham’s and Hampden’s local leaders for taking the time to meet with me and discuss new priorities as we begin planning for a new year’s budget. We celebrated a major milestone last year with the reopening of the East Street Bridge, reconnecting the communities of Wilbraham and Ludlow, and I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of all our residents,” Sen. Lesser said.

In November last year, Sen. Lesser joined local officials in a ribbon-cutting to reopen the East Street Bridge, a project he and town officials from Wilbraham and Ludlow worked on for two years.

Senator Eric P. Lesser (left) met with the Hampden Select Board on Monday to discuss new and ongoing challenges and opportunities as budget planning for a new year begins.


Senator Eric P. Lesser (right) also met with the Wilbraham Board of Selectmen to hear about the town’s priorities. In November, Sen. Lesser and town officials celebrated the long-awaited reopening of the East Street Bridge connecting Wilbraham and Ludlow.


Senator Lesser Lauds $365K “Complete Streets” Grant to Springfield to Improve Sidewalks, Bike Lanes

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the announcement earlier this month that Springfield would be receiving more than $365,000 in a state grant to make a number of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This is another terrific development in Springfield, particularly for downtown, as MGM prepares to open its doors and welcome thousands of tourists to the City. And it is thanks to the many hardworking officials at the DPW and others who prepared this grant application and identified where these funds were needed most. They are all contributing to a true renaissance in Springfield,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

The grant will fund a large number of projects identified by the Complete Streets 5/10/15/20 Year Prioritization Plan. Projects include re-painted crosswalks at 64 locations; installation of detectable warning strips at key intersections; repaired sidewalks to enhance the walkability to schools such as Boland School, Zanetti School, Liberty School, Glenwood School and the Springfield Boys’ and Girls’ Club; shared lane markings and bicycle signage in Metro Center/Springfield Transformative Development Initiative District; and city-wide bicycle parking.

The grant will also fund the installation of protected bicycle lanes along Wason Avenue, Chestnut Street, Bradley Road, and Oak Street.


Senator Lesser Welcomes News that Big Y Is Doubling Its Springfield Distribution Center, Hiring 32 New Workers

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed the news Friday that the family-owned Big Y Foods Inc. will expand the distribution center at its Roosevelt Avenue headquarters in Springfield and hire 32 new workers. The additions are in preparation for Big Y’s long-term plan to open 20 new supermarkets over the next 20 years.

“This is big news for Springfield, good news for our region’s workers and yet another sign that local businesses are doubling down on their investment in the City. As MGM opens its doors, and the CRRC plant comes online, and MassMutual brings many of its workers back to its Springfield headquarters, it is clear that Springfield is turning a corner, powered by the momentum of its local businesses,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

The news was first reported by The Republican.

Big Y was founded in 1936 by the late Paul and Gerald D’Amour with a single store in Chicopee. Today it is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England, operating 80 locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut with around 11,000 employees in total.