Category: Press Release

Senator Lesser Releases Statement on Supreme Court’s Decision Allowing States to Legalize Sports Betting

Sen. Lesser co-chairs committee overseeing legislation to regulate online sports betting

SPRINGFIELD — Following today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“This morning, the United States Supreme Court struck down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The Supreme Court’s decision now allows individual states to legalize and regulate sports betting. The Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies is actively considering several bills that address gaming, including former Senator Eileen Donoghue’s legislation, S. 2273. In the coming weeks, my House Co-Chair and I will engage our colleagues, relevant stakeholders, and the public at large in both the opportunities and challenges presented by the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Sen. Lesser serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. A bill introduced by former Sen. Eileen Donoghue to regulate online fantasy sports betting, S.2273, is currently before the committee.


Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Updating Formula for Education Funding

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted with the State Senate on Wednesday to pass a bill updating the state’s 25-year-old formula used to allocate funding for public education.

The bill, S. 2506, An Act modernizing the foundation budget for the 21st century, would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) which found that the foundation budget formula is drastically underestimating education costs. This has forced deep cuts to classrooms and critical programs, and one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

“Our Commonwealth’s schools, especially in low-income areas, are getting by with less and less. Our students need our full support in order to succeed. It’s time to fully fund our public education,” said Sen. Lesser.

“With the unanimous passage of the commission’s recommendations, the Senate is doing its part to make good on our obligation to every child in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, who sponsored the bill. “For years now, our schools have been suffering death by a thousand paper cuts, and it’s long past time we right this wrong. Schools and families shouldn’t have to lawyer up to get a quality education for their children.”

Established by the 1993 Education Reform Act, the Foundation Budget was designed to ensure every Massachusetts student was provided a quality education. However, the formula has failed to keep up with rising fixed costs like health care and special education that have outpaced initial estimates. It also underrated what it actually takes to educate English Language Learners and students living in poverty. The FBRC found these combined costs have led the Commonwealth to underestimate the cost of education by $1-2 billion every year.

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


Western Mass Senators Will Advocate for the Regional Needs of the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District

BOSTON – Today, western Massachusetts-based State Senators Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield), Eric P. Lesser (D- Longmeadow), Anne M. Gobi (D- Spencer) and Donald F. Humason, Jr. (R- Westfield) announced that they will collectively advocate for the regional needs and policy priorities of the communities within the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District for the remainder of the formal legislative session.

Due to the resignation of Senator Stan Rosenberg, the two dozen communities will be without representation in the Massachusetts Senate, effective at 5 p.m. tonight.  The 2017-2018 formal legislative session will conclude on July 31, 2018, and many key bills will be debated during the next three months, including the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.

The four Senators issued the following statement:

“We wish to assure the residents, local and regional officials in the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District that we will work together to represent your needs and priorities on Beacon Hill.  We will work collectively to advance your agenda and protect your interests for the remainder of this legislative session.  It is the right thing to do for western Massachusetts and to keep our region strong.”

Further, the Senators secured a commitment from Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D- Worcester) that she will help them protect the interests of Rosenberg’s former District:

“The Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District will continue to have a voice on Beacon Hill. Under the leadership of Senators Hinds, Lesser, Gobi and Humason, this body will continue to stand for the legislation important to residents. As Senate President, I add my voice to theirs, and pledge to work with my colleagues in local, state and federal government to advocate for the issues vital to this Western Massachusetts District.”

Members of Senator Rosenberg’s staff will continue to be available, both locally and in the State House, for casework inquiries and to provide guidance to the Senate on pending policy matters until the 2019-2020 legislative session begins in January.  However, policy work such as sponsoring and filing bills, home rule petitions, amendments and participating in Senate debate and roll call votes cannot be done by staff.  Senators Hinds, Lesser, Gobi and Humason will collaborate to ensure key priorities for the Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester District are presented and considered by the Massachusetts Senate for the remainder of this term.

The Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District is comprised of twenty four communities:  Amherst, Bernardston, Colrain, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Leverett, Leyden, Montague, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Pelham, Royalston, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Whately.


Senator Lesser Votes to Pass BRAVE Act, Expanding State Benefits for Veterans

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass the “BRAVE Act,” assuring Massachusetts’ status as first in the nation for veterans’ services.

The bill, S.2454, An Act relative to veterans’ benefits, rights, appreciation, validation and enforcement, expands benefits and increases access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families, including expanding property tax breaks for veterans and creating reserved parking for veterans at local government buildings, among other provisions.

“Our veterans and their families deserve our gratitude and our support after giving us their devotion and years of service. These are meaningful actions we took to support our veterans, particularly those who have fallen into difficult circumstances,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.

Among other measures, the bill grants paid military leave for those called to duty by the armed forces for up to 40 days for training and operation purposes.

To help ease the costs of housing, the legislation changes the requirement for veterans to receive property tax exemptions from residing in the Commonwealth for five years down to two years. It also increases the amount a veteran can earn on their property tax exemption for volunteering in their city or town.

The BRAVE Act increases the burial expense paid by commonwealth from $2,000 to $4,000 for indigent veterans to receive to adequately provide for a dignified funeral.

“This omnibus veterans legislation encompasses some of the very best ideas presented by my colleagues in the legislature and the veterans of the Commonwealth to assist veterans and their families with employment protections, tax exemptions, burial expenses, court programs, medical care, and also continues to recognize those who serve and who have served,” said Senator Rush, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, sponsor of the bill. “We want to ensure that Massachusetts remains number one in the nation in providing for our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families. This legislation goes a long way in accomplishing this goal.”

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


Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Consumer Protections in Response to Equifax Breach, Student Debt Laws

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass a credit protection bill that gives consumers more rights to protect their financial security in the wake of the 2017 Equifax data breach.

The breach exposed the personal data of 147 million Americans to the risk of identity theft. In response, Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit against Equifax alleging that the company knew or should have known that a serious security vulnerability existed but failed to patch or upgrade its software to eliminate it, according to a report.

The bill passed by the Senate, S.2455, An Act removing fees for security freezes and disclosures of consumer credit reports, requires credit agencies to provide five years of free credit monitoring to customers if their agency has been breached. It also makes credit freezes free and requires that consumers be notified and consent to their credit reports being pulled.

“Consumers need protections for the sensitive financial data they entrust to companies like Equifax. They should not be held responsible financially or otherwise when a data breach leaves them vulnerable to identity theft. This is a particular concern for the elderly, who rely on a limited income and expect their financial information to be secure with credit agencies,” said Sen. Lesser.

The Senate also passed S. 2266, An Act to prevent bureaucratic overreach in the collection of student debt, to protect students from losing their professional licenses because they had to default on their student debt.

Under current law, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) and the Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corporation – a former loan guarantor that now operates as American Student Assistance, a national nonprofit – can request that a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration or license be suspended, revoked or cancelled for default on educational loans made or administered by either entity.

“Student loans are already the only type of loan that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. To take away borrowers’ means of paying those loans back — by working under the professional licenses they earned with their education — is unfair and counterproductive. I am glad that the Senate took this step, following the Senate’s passage of the Student Loan Bill of Rights, to give needed protections to student loan borrowers,” said Sen. Lesser.

“Taking away a borrower’s ability to engage in their profession does not put them in a better position to be able to repay the loan,” said Sen. William N. Brownsberger, lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

2266 will now go to the State House of Representatives for consideration, while S. 2455 must be reconciled with a similar bill already passed in the House.


Senator Lesser Welcomes Business Leaders to State House, Gives Update on Major Bills

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser provided local business leaders with a legislative update at their annual Beacon Hill Summit on Wednesday.

Highlighting four major pieces of legislation, Sen. Lesser spoke about the economic development bill moving through the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, which he chairs; the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center funding bill; the Student Loan Bill of Rights and progress on East-West Rail.

“The continued engagement of our business community is so important to bringing resources back to Western Mass. It is my top priority in much of the work we do, from East-West rail to the Economic Development bill, to make sure that state resources are shared equitably around the state, that Western Mass is getting its fair share. Having our local business leaders come to the State House to be visible and share their concerns and their needs is immensely helpful in that effort,” said Sen. Lesser.

The summit was hosted by Sen. James Welch and Rep. Michael Finn. Nancy Creed, President of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, helped organize the event.


Senator Lesser Votes to Secure Nearly $8.5M in State Aid for Roads and Bridges in Springfield, Chicopee and Surrounding Communities

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser voted Wednesday for a state road repair package that would bring nearly $8.5 million in state aid for local roads and bridges to the nine communities he represents, including $3,682,135 for the City of Springfield.

The bill approved by the Senate appropriates $200 million in Chapter 90 reimbursements for cities and towns each year for the next three years, including:

  • Belchertown: $627,149
  • Chicopee: $1,334,849
  • East Longmeadow: $580,792
  • Granby: $278,714
  • Hampden: $257,102
  • Longmeadow: $473,389
  • Ludlow: $699,828
  • Springfield: $3,682,135
  • Wilbraham: $547,510

“This funding is critical to rebuilding our roads and bridges. The new three-year funding approach will allow communities to better plan how they invest these funds, enabling them to complete important infrastructure projects because the funding will be predictable and consistent,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

The legislation will now be reconciled with a version passed by the State House of Representatives before going to Gov. Charlie Baker for final approval.


Senate Passes Senator Lesser’s Bill to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

Bill creates a new licensing process for student loan servicers in the Division of Banks and empowers state officials to investigate and fine loan servicers

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted on Thursday to pass the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” giving greater protections to student loan borrowers in disputes with companies servicing their loans.

The bill, S.2380, An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights, requires student loan servicers to be licensed companies with the state Division of Banks, and empowers state officials to investigate the servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

The bill also supports the ongoing work of Attorney General Maura Healey’s Student Loan Assistance Unit by establishing a Student Loan Ombudsman in the Attorney General’s Office, who will lead efforts respond to complaints from student loan borrowers and help them understand their rights.

“A college degree has never cost so much. As a result, students are taking on substantial debt, and they are being taken advantage of by servicers who use deceptive practices and wrongly steer them into costly repayment plans. While the Trump Administration, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, continues to side with large for-profit student loan servicers and strip away protections for student loan borrowers, we in Massachusetts are standing up to protect our residents from predatory student loan companies,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

“As public officials, it is our duty to ensure fair and appropriate lending – especially in the student loan industry,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation ensures that Massachusetts residents receive robust consumer protections and that the student loan industry is given the proper level of oversight. I want to thank Senator Lesser for his leadership on this issue.”

“Taking on abuses in the student loan industry has long been a priority of my office. That’s why, in 2015, we created a Student Loan Assistance Unit to help borrowers with their student loans,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “I thank Senate President Chandler, Senator Lesser and the Senate for providing new resources and tools to protect Massachusetts students and families.”

Under the bill, student loan servicers would have to apply for licenses from the state, which the Commissioner of Banks could revoke if the servicer is engaged in abusive practices such as overcharging students or steering them into costlier repayment plans to make higher profits.

Student loan servicers that break state licensing requirements or take advantage of students could be fined and forced to repay student borrowers under the bill.

The bill now goes to the State House of Representatives, where Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) is the lead sponsor of the House companion bill.


Senator Lesser Applauds New Jersey State Loan Financing Authority for Leaving National Lobbying Group

SPRINGFIELD — Following the announcement today that the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority has cut ties with the National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER), a lobbying group for student loan servicers, Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“I am glad that the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority is the latest state student loan agency, after Massachusetts’, to cut ties with NCHER, which is helping President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as they gut protections for student loan borrowers. Membership in NCHER is not in the best interests of student borrowers, and no arm of state government should be involved in lobbying against that very state’s efforts to pass common-sense student loan protections. I hope other states join ranks with Massachusetts and New Jersey and take a stand in support of student borrowers.”

On March 28, Senator Lesser sent a letter, co-signed by 48 House and Senate colleagues, to the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) requesting an explanation for their membership in NCHER.

The next day, MEFA withdrew its membership from NCHER, which has been lobbying a receptive federal Department of Education to preempt state laws regulating the student loan servicers.

At the time, Senator Lesser said, “MEFA made the right decision by leaving NCHER, and I hope it leads to other states’ loan financing agencies — from Maine to Michigan to New Jersey to Pennsylvania — leaving this lobby group as well.”


Senator Lesser, Rep. Higgins to Unveil Student Loan Bill of Rights Ahead of Senate Vote on Wednesday

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Natalie Higgins will unveil their Student Loan Bill of Rights ahead of the Senate vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Designed to protect student borrowers from predatory student loan servicing companies, S.2380, An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights, empowers state officials to investigate servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

Sen. Lesser and Rep. Higgins will discuss further measures in the bill and take questions. They will be joined by students and organizers from Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), who can speak to the bill’s importance from a personal perspective.