Category: Press Release

Senator Lesser, Rep. Ashe Meet with LG Polito, Local Officials in Hampden

HAMPDEN — On Tuesday, Senator Eric P. Lesser, Rep. Brian M. Ashe and town officials welcomed Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito to Hampden for a roundtable discussion on the needs of the community.

“We had a productive meeting with Lt. Gov. Polito, and I am grateful that she came out to Western Mass to hear directly from local officials where the gaps are and how state and local government can work together to fill those gaps. We are all committed to making sure our communities in Western Mass are a top priority,” said Sen. Lesser.

“I want to thank Lt. Governor Polito for taking the time to speak with our Hampden officials today about their needs as a community.  This is a great example of how our government can and does work together — putting people first instead of politics,” said Rep. Ashe.

Photos below:

From left to right: Vincent Villamaino, Chairman, Hampden Board of Selectmen; Pam Courtney, Administrative Assistant, Hampden Board of Selectmen; Doug Boyd, Co-Chair of the Hampden Advisory Committee; Senator Eric P. Lesser; Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito; State Rep. Brian Ashe; Rebecca Moriarty, Executive Director of the Hampden Senior Center; Robert Howarth, Hampden Town Moderator; Michael Knapik, Western Mass Regional Director, Office of Governor Charlie Baker.


Senator Lesser Receives Award for Leadership in Fighting the State’s Opioid Epidemic

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser has received a Special Recognition Award from the Massachusetts Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors for his leadership in fighting the state’s opioid epidemic.

The award was formally announced at the Association’s annual meeting on Friday, January 12 in Westborough.

“I am humbled to receive this award, and proud of the difference we have made in providing greater access to Narcan, which has saved hundreds of lives. But I am also very aware that we have much more to do,” Senator Lesser said. “We need to expand the number of treatment beds available,  invest in alternative pain treatments and ultimately, the pharmaceutical companies that knowingly marketed these life-threatening products need to be held accountable.”

Preliminary numbers for 2017 show that overdose deaths in Massachusetts dropped 10 percent last year. This was due in part to the wide availability of Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug, and to the fact that Massachusetts was the first state to limit the number of opioid pills doctors can prescribe per prescription.

Senator Lesser could not attend the award ceremony because of a long-standing personal conflict. In lieu, Peter Crumb of Belchertown, a retired substance abuse counselor at Longmeadow High School and a board member of the Association, presented the award to Senator Lesser in his East Longmeadow office. The presentation was recorded in a video played at the ceremony in Westborough:

Watch the video here

“Since his election to the Massachusetts State Senate in 2014, Senator Eric Lesser has been an advocate for those who are fighting and recovering from addiction in the Commonwealth,” Crumb says in the video.

He highlighted Senator Lesser’s work to secure funding for Springfield’s drug court and increase the availability of Narcan, an opiate overdose-reversal drug.

Senator Lesser has been a leader in the fight against the opioid crisis. Most recently, he sponsored an amendment to the Senate’s healthcare reform package that included funding for research into medication-assisted treatment to explore alternative treatments for pain.

In January 2015, Senator Lesser authored legislation to set up the Massachusetts bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an opiate overdose-reversal drug.

Later this month, he will be visiting addiction treatment facilities and sitting down with high school students to discuss a bill he introduced that requires opioid addiction education in schools.


Senator Lesser Praises Youth Advocacy in Springfield City Council’s Vote to Raise the Age of Tobacco Sales to 21

SPRINGFIELD — On Tuesday, Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the efforts of Springfield’s young people in urging the city to raise the age of tobacco sales, saying “advocacy like this makes a difference.”

On Monday night, the Springfield City Council unanimously approved a city ordinance that will ban the sale of tobacco products to people under age 21 after months of lobbying by health advocates and many young activists from the city.

In October, Sen. Lesser met with students from the Mason Square Health Task Force who had come to the State House to advocate for raising the age of tobacco sales.

“For anyone doubting their ability to make a difference, take a look at these young people who raised awareness and got the word out about youth smoking. Thanks to their efforts, and a unanimous vote in the City Council, Springfield will now be raising the tobacco age from 18 to 21. I voted to raise the age statewide when it came up in the Senate last year, and am hopeful we can get another chance to do so this year. Advocacy like this makes a difference!” Sen. Lesser said.

Sen. Lesser is a longtime supporter of a bill introduced by Sen. Jason Lewis, An Act To Protect Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction, which would raise the age for tobacco sales statewide to 21.




Senator Lesser Reminds Constituents That State Health Insurance Coverage Remains Despite Tax Bill Passed By Congress

SPRINGFIELD — In an effort to quell confusion following Congress’ passage Wednesday of a sweeping tax bill, Senator Eric P. Lesser notified constituents on Thursday that Massachusetts is protected from a measure in the bill that effectively repeals the federal health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Despite the bill passed by Congress, which is expected to be signed by President Trump, Massachusetts has a statewide individual mandate.

In a statement, Senator Lesser said:

“All our residents should still make sure that they have health insurance coverage, which must be purchased by January 23, when the current open enrollment period ends. Here in Massachusetts, we are committed to providing healthcare to all our residents and our record speaks for itself — we have nearly 100 percent coverage in our state.

“Regardless of what Congress and President Trump do, I will do everything I can to make sure our residents’ healthcare is protected, and that everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage.”

Those in need of coverage can buy insurance on the state’s insurance exchange, called the Massachusetts Health Connector. They have until Saturday Dec. 23 to select a plan to go into effect in January. They have until Jan. 23 to select coverage that begins in February.

Today, 97.5 percent of Massachusetts residents have health coverage, the highest rate in the country, according to an October 2017 report by the U.S. Census. In part because of this high rate of coverage, Massachusetts was named the healthiest state in the nation in a report by the United Health Foundation.

Massachusetts’ health care reform law passed in 2006 on a bipartisan basis and was signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney. As a result, Massachusetts’ health care reform law served as a model for national health care reform in 2009 when Congress passed the ACA requiring a national health insurance mandate.

Massachusetts chose to keep its state-level mandate in place because its benefit coverage standards, which varied slightly from those in the ACA, had proven to be effective in the state’s market. Adults aged 18 and older need to carry health insurance if it is affordable to them and that meets certain coverage standards. More information can be found at

According to the Massachusetts Health Connector, the individual mandate enables the state to maintain and grow its level of health coverage by keeping the health insurance market stable. When both healthy and sick people buy into health coverage, risk for insurers is balanced and health coverage is more affordable for everyone.


Senator Lesser Signs Letter to Gov. Baker Urging Additional Resources for Regional School Transportation

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser, along with several Western Mass. Representatives and Senators, signed a letter to Governor Charlie Baker on Dec. 12 requesting that the state fully reimburse regional school districts for the cost of transporting students.

“Costs associated with transportation in a regional school district represent a significant portion of a district’s budget because of the geographical footprint associated with bus routes across numerous communities, often with low population densities,” the letter reads in part.

The state currently has 58 regional school districts, which enroll about 107,000 students in more than 170 communities, the letter notes.

“The state has previously committed to providing this vital funding, and it’s time it live up to its commitment. Fully reimbursing our regional school transportation costs is vital to our city and town budgets, many of which already struggle to come up with enough resources for our schools. I urge the Baker Administration to step up and help our schools meet this need,” said Sen. Lesser.

Regional school districts are mandated by the state to transport all students to and from their homes. This cost is usually at least partially reimbursed by the state, but this decision is revisited each year during budget negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor.

“Committing to 100% reimbursement would allow regional school districts to responsibly plan for upcoming school years,” the letter states.

The signers are all members of the Regional Schools Caucus which advocates on issues important to regional — and usually rural — schools.

They include Sens. Anne Gobi, the Senate chair of the caucus, and Adam Hinds and Reps. Peter Kocot, Smitty Pignatelli, Angelo Puppolo, Todd Smola, Stephen Kulik, Nicholas Boldyga, Solomon Goldstein-Rose and Paul Mark.

Read the full letter: Senator Lesser Co-Signs Letter to Gov. Baker on Regional School Transportation


Senator Lesser’s Statement on Greenfield’s Lawsuit Against Opioid Makers

SPRINGFIELD — On Thursday, Dec. 14, the town of Greenfield filed a lawsuit against major pharmaceutical companies for failing to properly monitor the distribution of the opioids they manufactured.

The Greenfield suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, rests in part on the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which requires drug companies to report unusually large or otherwise suspicious orders, according to a report by the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

In response to the lawsuit, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“Make no mistake: deliberate decisions were made by Big Pharma companies to flood our communities with super-powerful painkillers, knowing full well these drugs were highly addictive and prone to misuse. The result is one of the worst public health emergencies in American history and thousands of devastated families in Western Massachusetts.

“The evidence is mounting that these companies marketed these drugs and put them in the hands of patients knowing how addictive they are and knowing the power they had to destroy lives. I’m glad Greenfield is taking this courageous step at holding Big Pharma accountable. I hope more communities, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, take this case on as well.”

Senator Lesser has been a leader in fighting the opioid epidemic. Most recently, he sponsored an amendment to the Senate’s healthcare reform package that included funding for research into medication-assisted treatment to explore alternative treatments for pain. In January 2015, Senator Lesser filed a bill that served as a blueprint for the Massachusetts bulk purchasing program for Narcan, an opiate overdose-reversal drug.

You can read more about Senator Lesser’s work to address the opioid epidemic here.


Senator Lesser Tours Local Businesses to Encourage “Shopping Small” This Holiday Season

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser toured a handful of local businesses on Dec. 18 to encourage “shopping small” during the holiday season and discuss the current regulatory environment with business owners.

“Visiting these small businesses helps me get a sense of their day-to-day pressures and what they are doing to stay competitive in Western Mass,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser wrote an op-ed this month in which he highlighted how the state can be responsive to small businesses’ needs, such as providing free business advising through the state’s  Small Business Development Center Network to help existing small businesses develop growth plans.

While encouraging shopping local during the holiday season, Senator Lesser also got some shopping of his own done. Among his purchases were a bag of treats from Pop’s Biscotti & Chocolates and some groceries at Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow.

The tour was organized in partnership with the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in Ludlow, Wilbraham, Hampden, East Longmeadow and Longmeadow. Nancy Connor, the Chamber’s Executive Director, accompanied Senator Lesser on the tour.

The tour kicked off at Pop’s Biscotti & Chocolates in Wilbraham, and then continued on to Village Food Mart in Hampden, Lupa Zoo in Ludlow, Fleet Feet Sports in Longmeadow and ended with a visit to Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow.

Photos below:

Senator Lesser talks with Timothy Murphy, one of the owners of Fleet Feet Sports in Longmeadow.

From left to right: Senator Eric Lesser; Sue Katz, owner of Arnold’s Meats in East Longmeadow; and Nancy Connor, Executive Director of the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce.


Senator Lesser Interviewed by Ludlow Middle Schoolers for C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” Contest

LUDLOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser sat down for interviews with students at Ludlow’s Paul R. Baird Middle School on Dec. 14 for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest.

The students asked Senator Lesser various questions on topics chosen by their class: immigration, gun violence prevention and women’s rights and equal pay. This is Senator Lesser’s third year participating with Baird Middle School for their contest entry.

“I was so excited to sit down with students at Baird Middle School again, and so impressed by their sharp questions. It is vital that we prepare our students for active civic participation from a young age, transforming their civics education to civic action through classroom projects. That is why I am glad Baird takes on this project each year, and why I introduced legislation to encourage civic education throughout Massachusetts. A healthy democracy needs citizens to be well-informed and engaged, and that begins with educating our young citizens,” said Senator Lesser.

Under Senator Lesser’s bill, introduced this session, an “action civics project” would be required of all students at least once in elementary school and at least once in high school. This could include projects such as proposing legislation to solve community issues, helping to register people to vote or testifying in a public hearing.

The bill, S. 278, would also create a voluntary pilot program for school districts to use and test a curriculum on news media literacy, with the ultimate goal of requiring that news media literacy be taught in all Massachusetts schools. Senator Lesser testified on the bill before the Joint Committee on Education in June.

Photos below:

Senator Eric P. Lesser sat down for interviews with students at Ludlow’s Paul R. Baird Middle School on Dec. 14 for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest. Students asked various questions on topics chosen by their class: immigration, gun violence prevention and women’s rights and equal pay.

This is Senator Lesser’s third year participating with Baird Middle School for their entry into C-SPAN’s annual “StudentCam” contest.


Senator Lesser Applauds Vote by State Board to Give Tuition Break to Students Relocated Due to Hurricane Maria

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed a vote by the state Board of Higher Education on Tuesday that allows students who were relocated to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

Following the vote, Senator Lesser released the following statement:

“Our state’s Board of Higher Education chose to do the right thing by our fellow Americans who fell victim to Hurricane Maria. Granting in-state tuition to students who relocated here from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria will help them continue their studies and contribute to our state.

“Over the months and years ahead, as these students lay roots here, potentially start families and businesses here, they will remember that Massachusetts welcomed them in their time of need. And we will be richer for their contributions to our culture and our communities.

“This decision makes me proud that Massachusetts is doing its part to help those who have been relocated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is my hope that we will always be the port in the storm to our fellow citizens and will continue leading by example when Americans are in need.”


Supporting local businesses this holiday season supports local jobs

In Masslive 12/13/17

Holidays are usually a rush — managing cook times so you don’t burn the latkes or the cookies, taking the kids to the Nutcracker and the school holiday parties, and, of course, getting the shopping done.

It’s this last one I want to discuss.

I hope that, in the rush of the holiday season, you’ll remember to stop at a small business for some of your shopping.

Supporting small businesses supports jobs in our community.

In Massachusetts, there are more than 600,000 small businesses, which together employ about half of the Commonwealth’s private workforce.

Across the country, small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up 99.7 percent of all U.S. employers, according to 2012 data from the Small Business Administration.

Small businesses are responsible for 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs — so “shopping small” may even support the job you want to apply for one day.

State government can play a big role in supporting these businesses and helping them stay competitive in an increasingly globalized marketplace. There are resources we can provide to make state rules and guidelines easier to navigate. Many regulations turn into roadblocks, and complicated licensing and permitting requirements hinder growth when they should be enhancing competition.

State government can and should be a partner.

One example is the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network’s Western Regional Office, which provides free one-on-one business advising to help existing small businesses develop growth plans and financial forecasting charts.

That is why I’ll be touring a handful of local businesses with the East of the River Five-Town Chamber of Commerce this month. I want to hear directly from small business owners about the issues they face, including the regulatory environment, and how the state can be more responsive to their needs.

Among the companies I’ll be visiting are Robert Charles Photography in East Longmeadow (great for your family Christmas card), Delaney’s Market in Longmeadow (the perfect stop to build your New Year’s cheese board) and Pop’s Biscotti and Chocolate in Wilbraham (which makes a great mid-shopping snack break).

Visiting these small businesses helps me get a sense of their day-to-day pressures and what they are doing to stay competitive in Western Mass.

Especially at a time when the whole state is buzzing with the hope of bringing Amazon’s second headquarters to Massachusetts, we need to remember that our local retailers are driving our state’s economy.

The consolidation of mom and pop shops into big box stores has taken a wrecking ball to our local economies. Through tax incentives and other means, our State Legislature should ensure that companies like the many family-owned small businesses, handed down from generation to generation, can still survive — and thrive — in our communities,.

Supporting small businesses is also vital to keeping our young talent here. How wonderful would it be if families saw their young college grads not just during the holidays a few times a year, but all year round? Creating and sustaining more job opportunities here would enable more of our young people to work and raise their families here, instead of moving away for better job prospects elsewhere.

So, this holiday season I urge you to patronize our local businesses — such as the many local craft makers and artisans selling their wares at the Downtown Springfield Holiday Market in The Shops at Marketplace.

And, whichever holiday you celebrate this season, I hope it is happy, healthy and filled with family and friends.


State Sen. Eric P. Lesser is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, and leads Millennial Outreach for the Massachusetts State Senate. He represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in Western Massachusetts.