Category: Press Release

Senator Lesser Votes to Ban Distracted Driving

BOSTON — On Thursday, Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to help pass a ban on distracted driving, citing an increase in fatal car accidents due to distracted drivers.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), implements penalties for operating a vehicle while holding a mobile electronic device.

“I was proud to support this bill because distracted driving is a growing problem that is costing people’s lives. One out of every five fatal car crashes in 2015 was due to a distracted driver, and it’s time that drivers understand that the text can wait, the phone call can wait,” said Sen. Lesser.

Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York all have similar bans on the books. After New Hampshire passed a similar law, it saw fatal car accidents due to distracted driving drop from 16 deaths in 2015 to just two in 2016.

Forty-six states currently ban texting while driving for all drivers and 14 states ban the use of handheld devices for all drivers.

In 2010, the legislature banned texting while driving but did not ban the use of handheld devices for talking or other purposes.  The 2010 law banned handheld use for 16 and 17 year olds.  The law has been difficult to enforce and hands-free technology has improved significantly since the passage of the 2010 law.

Under the new bill, an initial violation results in a $100 fine, a second-time offense in a $250 fine and subsequent offenses in a $500 fine. Third and subsequent offenses would also be considered moving violations for insurance purposes.

The bill now moves on to the House for consideration.

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Local Students Win Senator Lesser’s Inaugural High School Essay Contest

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser announced the winners of his first annual high school essay contest on Friday.

The winners were Kamran Noori Shirazi, who just graduated from Springfield Central High School, and Fiona O’Sullivan, who just graduated from Ludlow High School.

For the competition, students were asked to describe a community issue and an idea they had to fix it in 300-500 words.

Shirazi, in an effort to prevent high schoolers from dropping out of school, proposed a Springfield Tutoring Coalition, which would consist of student volunteers that would provide weekly tutoring sessions and emotional support to at-risk students in Springfield.

O’Sullivan, addressing the pollution and hazard to wildlife from the improper disposal of plastic bags, recommended a statewide tax or ban on the use of plastic bags.

Sen. Lesser congratulated Shirazi and O’Sullivan at his district office in East Longmeadow and presented them with official citations from the Massachusetts State Senate. They will also be awarded a State House tour.

“While pundits tell us there is so much apathy and lack of civic spirit in our younger generations, it was heartening to receive a flood of thoughtful and well-written essays from our high school students. Contrary to the naysayers, young people want to make a difference, and Kamran and Fiona are excellent examples of that trend,” Sen. Lesser said.

To further inspire youth political engagement, Sen. Lesser has introduced bills to encourage school districts to implement news media literacy and civics education programs, which have been cut from school curricula in recent years.

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Senator Lesser Votes to Pass Bill Detailing the Sale and Taxation of Marijuana in Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD — On Thursday, Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to pass a compromise bill that specifies how marijuana can be sold and how those sales will be taxed in Massachusetts. The bill is the result of negotiations between the House and Senate, following voters’ approval of Question 4 to legalize the use and sale of marijuana. After the vote, Sen. Lesser issued the following statement:

“The War on Drugs has damaged our communities, ruined lives and cost our state tens of billions of dollars. Today, Massachusetts took a historic step in addressing this failed policy.

“At the same time, we have kept our sights set on the dangerous opioid crisis ravaging our communities, and acted to confront it. The bill we passed to govern marijuana sales ensures that a share of the revenue from those sales will be spent on efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. With targeted investments like this, we can arrest the spread of highly addictive and dangerous drugs while treating those who have been harmed by addiction.

“I am also proud to say that, with this bill, the Massachusetts Senate has listened to the voters and respected their decision on Question 4 to legalize the use and sale of marijuana in Massachusetts. Working together, we have implemented the will of the voters responsibly and in line with their wishes.”

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Senator Lesser Completes Whistle-Stop Tour Across State in Support of East-West Rail

Tour ended with rally in Springfield attended by more than 100 supporters

SPRINGFIELD — On Monday, June 19, Senator Eric P. Lesser took a whistle-stop tour across the state to raise support for his proposal to study a high-speed rail link between Boston and Springfield.

The tour began in Boston and ended with a nighttime rally in Springfield’s newly renovated Union Station, which was filled by more than 100 supporters waving “Rally 4 Rail” signs.

“Our taxes paid for the Big Dig. We’re still paying for the Big Dig. We pay the sales tax that supports the MBTA even though we’re 55 miles from the closest MBTA stop. And you know what? My guess is most of the people in this room will gladly pay their fair share and will continue to because we understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. And we benefit from a growing, vibrant Boston just as much as other communities and other people do. But the deal has to be fair,” Sen. Lesser told supporters.

“And we need the same investment and we need the same attention as every other region in this Commonwealth,” he added.

Unlike a traditional whistle-stop tour taken by train, Sen. Lesser drove most of the way in his car, since there is only one train per day from Boston to Springfield — making it impossible to make stops along the way and complete the journey on later trains.

The tour started with a press conference at Boston’s South Station, where Sen. Lesser was joined by his colleagues Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore, who each represent parts of Boston and Greater Boston.

From there, Sen. Lesser rode a MBTA commuter train to Framingham Station, where he was welcomed by Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Reps. Carmen Gentile and Jack Lewis also spoke in favor of increased east-west rail service, noting that in developed countries around the world, from Japan to Great Britain, shorter commute times due to efficient rail service are taken for granted.

Sen. Lesser then drove to Worcester, where he met with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Worcester Telegram Editorial Board to discuss the new economic development in downtown due to the city’s revitalization of its train station and increased commuter rail traffic to Boston.

Sen. Lesser also met with former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, who is now President of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

From there, Sen. Lesser drove to Palmer, where he spoke to a packed room at the famous local restaurant, the Steaming Tender, a former train station. Sen. Anne Gobi and Rep. Todd Smola also spoke in favor of east-west rail and specifically about the goal of reviving a train stop in Palmer, which they said would bring new economic opportunities to the town and region.

Sen. Lesser finished the tour with an energetic rally in Springfield, where supporters joined him at Union Station despite the rainy weather.

Sen. Lesser was introduced by Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield and Sen. Don Humason of Westfield, showing that in Western Mass — as across the state — the proposal to study east-west rail has diverse bipartisan support from urban, suburban and rural communities.

This is the third time Sen. Lesser has introduced this proposal.

In May, Sen. Lesser reintroduced his budget amendment in the Massachusetts State Senate to require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-to-Boston high-speed rail. The same amendment passed both the House and Senate last year with broad bipartisan support. But Gov. Baker vetoed the proposal after Peter Pan bus company owner Peter Picknelly sent an email to Baker personally lobbying against it.

Since then, the proposal has continued to gain support, including high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton.

During the debate on Sen. Lesser’s amendment this year, there was a rare widespread show of support for the measure in the State Senate. Sens. Spilka, Gobi, Chandler, Humason and Adam Hinds all spoke in favor of the bill.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst voted to support the amendment when the Senate President, who presides over the chamber, customarily abstains from votes.

Sen. Lesser sees this widespread, bipartisan support of his amendment as a sign of growing momentum to get the proposal passed and signed into law by Gov. Baker.

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Senator Lesser Congratulates “Unsung Heroine” of Springfield

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser congratulated Dora Robinson of Springfield, who was recognized as an “Unsung Heroine” on Wednesday, June 21.

Robinson was personally nominated by Sen. Lesser, and was honored along with more than 115 other Massachusetts women at a State House ceremony Wednesday.

The Unsung Heroines are recognized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women for devoting their time and talent to their communities, often in volunteer organizations and nonprofits. They usually don’t make the news, but make a difference in their neighborhoods.

Robinson is retiring as President and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley after serving for more than 40 years in nonprofit leadership in the Greater Springfield community.

“Massachusetts’ Unsung Heroines are our neighbors, friends and mentors who are working to make sure everyone has an equal shot at reaching their potential and making the most of life’s opportunities. I am especially proud of Dora Robinson and her work. We are all better off because of Dora’s dedication, and I am grateful for her — and other heroines’ — contributions to our communities and families,” said Sen. Lesser.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was created by the state legislature in 1998 to advance women’s full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities.

Sen. Lesser, the father of two young daughters, was a vocal co-sponsor of legislation to create a Commission on the Status of Women and Girls in Hampden County.

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Senator Lesser Announces Statewide Whistle-Stop Tour in Support of East-West Rail

Tour to start in Boston, end with rally in Springfield

Includes stops in Framingham, Worcester and Palmer

 

EVENT DETAILS

First stop: Boston – more details to come

WHAT: Press conference with Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore

WHEN: Monday, June 19 at 9 a.m.

 

Second stop: Framingham

WHAT: Press conference at Framingham Station with Sen. Karen Spilka and local elected officials to discuss the regional and state-wide importance of modern rail infrastructure and concerns about the Framingham at-grade rail crossing

WHEN: Monday, June 19 at 11 a.m.

 

Third stop: Worcester

WHAT: Meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Editorial Board of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, to discuss how expansion of MBTA rail service to Worcester has transformed the city

WHEN: Monday, June 19 at 12:30 p.m.

 

Fourth stop: Palmer

WHAT: Meeting with Sen. Anne Gobi and local business leaders at Palmer’s Steaming Tender Restaurant to discuss Transit Oriented Development opportunities for the town and region

WHERE: Steaming Tender Restaurant

WHEN: Monday, June 19 at 3:30 p.m.

 

Fifth stop: Springfield

WHAT: Rally in support of east-west rail

WHERE: Union Station

WHEN: Monday, June 19 at 5:30 p.m.

 

SPRINGFIELD — Today Senator Eric P. Lesser announced plans for a whistle-stop tour across the state to rally support for his proposal to study the feasibility and economic benefits of a high-speed rail link between Springfield and Boston.

The tour will start with a press conference in Boston, with Sen. Lesser’s colleagues Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and Sen. Joe Boncore, who each represent parts of Boston and Greater Boston.

The tour will then go to Framingham, where Sen. Lesser will join Sen. Karen Spilka and local elected officials to discuss the regional and state-wide importance of modern rail infrastructure and concerns about the Framingham at-grade rail crossing.

The tour will also stop in Worcester, where Sen. Lesser will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and Palmer, where Sens. Lesser and Anne Gobi will meet with local business leaders.

The tour will end in Springfield with a rally in support of east-west rail at Springfield’s soon-to-reopen Union Station. The rally is open to the public, who are encouraged to attend.

Unlike a traditional whistle-stop tour, taken by train, this will be conducted in Sen. Lesser’s car, since there is only one train per day from Boston to Springfield — making it impossible to make stops along the way and complete the journey on later trains.

In May, Sen. Lesser reintroduced his budget amendment in the Massachusetts State Senate to require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to move forward with a feasibility study of Springfield-to-Boston high-speed rail. The same amendment passed both the House and Senate last year but was vetoed by Gov. Baker.

Since then, the proposal has continued to gain support, including high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton.

During the debate on Sen. Lesser’s amendment this May, there was a rare widespread show of support for the measure in the State Senate. Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst voted to support the amendment when the Senate President, who presides over the chamber, customarily abstains from votes. Sen. Karen Spilka, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, also spoke in favor of the amendment, a gesture rarely used by the Chair of the committee, which writes the draft of the Senate budget.

Several Senators spoke in favor of the amendment before its passage, including Sen. Chandler, Sen. Gobi and Sen. Don Humason.

Sen. Lesser sees this widespread, bipartisan support of his amendment as a sign of growing momentum to get the proposal passed and signed into law by Gov. Baker.

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Hundreds Attend Sen. Lesser’s “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair” to Learn About Local Resources

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 600 area residents turned out to Senator Eric P. Lesser’s first annual “Thrive After 55 Wellness Fair” on Friday, June 9 to learn about local resources available to help them plan for retirement.

“There is a tremendous need for this information that helps people plan ahead for their futures,” Sen. Lesser said. “I was thrilled to see so many people turn out, and hear how helpful this was to them.”

In all, 42 organizations participated, each with a booth to share pamphlets and other materials about their services. The fair was held at Western New England University and sponsored by Health New England, whose representatives handed out booklets about applying for Medicare and answered questions.

Mercy Medical Center also served as a sponsor, and Prime Magazine, 22 News and The Republican were the fair’s media sponsors.

The Office of Elder Affairs and their community partners, WestMass ElderCare and Greater Springfield Senior Services, represented more than six state agencies which offer services from emergency preparedness to assistive technologies to help people live independently in their homes. Representatives from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and AARP were also present.

In addition to information, there were also more than 30 raffle prizes and interactive presentations. Local attorney Todd Ratner of Bacon Wilson presented a seminar on elder law and Anne Mahar of Baystate Home Infusion and Respiratory Services presented on eating healthy. Heartsong Yoga Center, based in East Longmeadow, led the auditorium in a yoga session, explaining exercises that could be done while sitting, for those with disabilities.

Sen. Lesser said he plans to hold the fair again next year.

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Sen. Lesser, Rep. Petrolati Congratulate Ludlow Students Who Competed in National C-SPAN Competition

LUDLOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser and Representative Thomas M. Petrolati congratulated students at Paul R. Baird Middle School on Thursday for earning honorable mention in C-SPAN’s nationwide “StudentCam” documentary filmmaking competition.

Eighth-grade students Liz Goncalves, Braeden Vermette and Kendyl Vermette created a documentary film about the opiate epidemic titled, “The Opioid Drug Epidemic, Our Nation in Crisis.” The students’ research included interviews Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, other local law enforcement leaders and a nurse practitioner who appear in the film.

“It was so inspiring to see these students tackle an issue as serious and complex as our opiate epidemic, and grapple with the questions it raises for the lives at stake. I look forward to sharing their film with my colleagues to see how it can inform our work in the State Senate to conquer this epidemic,” said Sen. Lesser, who serves on the Special Senate Committee on Addiction, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options.

“I am impressed by our students’ commitment to this important project and their determination to see it through. The opioid epidemic is affecting every community in state and our country, and it’s important for our young people to be aware of and informed about this crisis. It will take all of us to solve it,” said Rep. Tom Petrolati.

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Senator Lesser Lauds $1 Million Grant for Belchertown Day School

SPRINGFIELD —Senator Eric P. Lesser applauded the announcement that Belchertown Day School had been selected for a $1 million grant for the construction of a new building on the campus of the former Belchertown State School.

The building will include a fenced toddler playground, separate fenced preschool playground and a separate play area for the school-age program in the back of the building.

“I am thrilled that our community has been awarded this grant to build brand-new facilities for early education programs. As we know, early education for toddlers and pre-schoolers is the best way to get our children on the path to success. This grant will allow us to do that, and will greatly benefit the children and families of Belchertown,” said Sen. Lesser.

The Department of Early Education and Care awarded the FY2017 grant under the Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Grant program, which supports facility improvements, renovation and development.

The EEOST Grant Program awards grants to large group early education and out of school time programs for major capital building projects that improve the quality of the environment for children. The EEOST Capital Fund Grant Awards support tax-exempt non-profits that operate an early education and care program that enroll children from low-income families who are eligible to receive a public subsidy (at least 25% of the total program enrollment.)

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Lesser: “Gov. Baker Saw the Common Sense” in Step to Provide Leadership on Fighting Climate Change

Current members of U.S. Climate Alliance Are California, Connecticut, New York and Washington

SPRINGFIELD — Less than 24 hours after Senator Eric P. Lesser called on Governor Charlie Baker to join the United State Climate Alliance, a coalition of states seeking to uphold the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, the Governor has agreed to move Massachusetts into the Alliance.

“I am grateful that Governor Baker saw the common sense in this simple, concrete step to keep Massachusetts a leader in the clean energy economy. Leadership on climate is more than our moral obligation; it is also an opportunity for Massachusetts to attract the businesses that are creating jobs at a faster rate than any other sector of our economy. I look forward to the common lessons, best practices and new technologies that we will learn and share with the other members of the Climate Alliance as we work to solve one of the most critical issues of our time,” said Senator Lesser.

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement on Thursday that he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the governors of California, New York and Washington formed a new coalition, called the United States Climate Alliance, aimed at meeting the U.S. climate goals set forth in the agreement.

In response, Senator Lesser issued a statement calling on Governor Baker to join the Alliance and began circulating a letter in the legislature to that effect. On Friday, Governor Dannel Malloy announced that Connecticut would join the Alliance, and by the end of the day Governor Baker announced that Massachusetts would be joining.

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