Category: Press Release

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.

Sen. Lesser Secures Increased Funding for Manufacturing Jobs Training in State Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate have included $1.535 million for a precision manufacturing training program in the 2016 state budget, signed by Governor Baker. The significant increase originated from an amendment to the Senate budget filed by Senator Lesser.

“Western Massachusetts has been left out of the red-hot economy in the eastern part of the state,” Lesser said. “But there is a path to reinvest in the middle class—and that’s to marry up our traditional history as a manufacturing center with the intellectual firepower of our schools and training centers. This funding supports a successful pilot program focused on training individuals in the high growth precision manufacturing sector.”

Over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers, despite the fact that the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000.

The budget increases line item funding to $1.535 million, a total increase of $675,000 from last year. Senator Lesser filed an amendment in the most recent Senate budget to increase the initial funding amount by $500,000, which was successful.

In the Pioneer Valley, the precision manufacturing pilot program has resulted in an exciting partnership between the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. Together these organizations are working with local community colleges, vocational schools and advanced manufacturing companies to train unemployed and under-employed individuals, career changers and youth across the region. Last year this program received 146 applications and was only able to accept 37 participants into the program, which is underway now, but needs funding to continue.

In May of this year Senator Lesser gave his maiden speech to the Senate on his amendment, calling the Pioneer Valley “a manufacturing hub for 10 generations,” but said our region must work to keep pace with rapid shifts in advanced manufacturing practices and international markets.

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.

Sen. Lesser Substance Abuse Bills included in House and Senate Compromise Budget

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) announced that the House and Senate accepted a compromise version of the Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which included his proposals to close the pharmacy shopping loophole for highly addictive narcotics and to create a bulk-purchasing program for the anti-overdose drug Narcan. These measures aim to combat the opioid addiction crisis plaguing Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole. Last year, over 1,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid overdoses.

“Both of these initiatives provide targeted solutions to a nationwide problem – opioid addiction – that has disproportionately hurt our corner of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Lesser. “With a simple shift to more frequent pharmacy reporting and the establishment of Narcan bulk-purchasing in Massachusetts, we’ll be able to spot addicts before an overdose happens and equip municipalities and their first responders with a potentially lifesaving drug.”

In January of this year, Senator Lesser filed An Act preventing prescription drug abuse by closing the pharmacy shopping loophole. This bill would reduce the length of time pharmacies must report the prescription of highly addictive narcotics from 7 days to 24-hours. Also in January, Senator Lesser filed An Act to improve the accessibility and affordability of naloxone and other pharmaceutical drugs of public health concern. This bill served as a blueprint for the Senate’s proposal to establish a statewide bulk-purchasing program of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, commonly known as Narcan. The bulk-purchasing program is meant to curb dramatic increases in the drug’s cost, just as it is most needed to combat the opiate epidemic.

Over the course of the last six months, Senator Lesser’s initiatives have gained the support of Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Senate President Rosenberg and other legislative leaders. Both of Senator Lesser’s policy proposals were included in Governor Baker’s Opioid Working Group recommendations for combating substance abuse. The Senate’s version of the FY16 state budget also included both proposals. A February 2015 report by the Department of Public Health’s Drug Control Program included Senator Lesser’s pharmacy shopping legislation in its list of recommendations as well.

The FY 16 compromise budget also includes provisions that:

  • Allocate $100,000 for the administration of a Narcan bulk-purchasing program;
  • Establish a multi-agency task force to review opportunities to negotiate bulk-purchasing discounts for non-Medicaid prescription drugs; and
  • Direct Medicaid and state agencies to identify cost-saving measures, including bulk purchasing consortiums, to curb unsustainable increases in prescription drug costs for all residents beyond Narcan.

The compromise budget will now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.

Sen. Lesser Testifies in Support of his High-tech Economic Development Bill for Gateway Cities

State Senator Eric P. Lesser delivered testimony to the Joint Committee on Revenue in support of his bill to stimulate high-tech entrepreneurship in Springfield, Chicopee and other Gateway Cities.

The bill, entitled An Act to promote high-tech job growth in gateway cities and filed by Lesser in January, offers a 10 percent tax credit to investors who fund high-tech small businesses located in Gateway Cities. To receive the tax credit, the investor must choose a small company with 75 percent of its employees working in Massachusetts.

“This tax credit will level the playing field for entrepreneurs in Gateway Cities, encouraging investors to look for opportunities in all parts of Massachusetts,” Lesser said. Senator Lesser also submitted written testimony to the committee.

Senator Lesser cited Springfield-based organizations such as Tech Foundry, Bay State Health’s TechSpring, Valley Venture Mentors and River Valley Investors as “leading examples of a startup ecosystem that Senate Bill 1507 will support, nurture and grow.”

Massachusetts’ post-recession economic recovery has long outpaced the national average, but not uniformly across regions. As of April, the unemployment rate in Springfield was 7.6 percent, compared to 3.7 percent in Boston and 4.7 percent statewide.

“It is important to support new opportunities in all corners of our Commonwealth,” Lesser said. “I believe this tax credit is exactly the type of targeted and innovative initiative that will foster the type of broadly shared high-tech growth so essential to a prosperous future.”

An electronic copy of Senator Lesser’s written testimony is below.

WrittenTestimony_S1507-page-001

WrittenTestimony_S1507-page-002

 

Eight Western Massachusetts Businesses Awarded $570,000 in Workforce Training Funds

Eight businesses in Western Massachusetts received more than $570,000 in Workforce Training Grant funds through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Senator Eric P. Lesser announced today.

“We know the key to economic growth is a highly trained local workforce. These funds will help our local small businesses keep their employees competitive and up-to-speed with the latest technologies,” Lesser said.

“These grants are great news for the entire Commonwealth, and especially right here in Longmeadow and East Longmeadow,” said Representative Brian Ashe (D-Longmeadow). “The workforce training grants will help with job retention, job development as well as job creation.”

Western Massachusetts recipients include Mechanical Drive Components, Inc. and the Polish National Credit Union in Chicopee; Premier Source Credit Union in East Longmeadow; the Willie Ross School for the Deaf in Longmeadow; B & R Machine in Ludlow; and Pioneer Valley Urology, Springfield Super Brush and Springfield Valet Park of America in Springfield.

The Workforce Training Fund provides up to $250,000 to companies of any size in Massachusetts to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grant recipients benefit from improved worker productivity and efficiency, helping them save money and fueling job growth.

Grants are matched dollar-for-dollar by the recipients. Interested businesses are encouraged to visit www.commcorp.org/wtfp to learn more about the program.