Category: Uncategorized

Senator Lesser, New Senate Chair of Library Caucus, Advocates for Library Funding at State House

BOSTON —  Speaking before hundreds of librarians from across the state on Tuesday, Senator Eric P. Lesser advocated for increased funding for public libraries and told them “you are at the front lines of expanding that circle of opportunity and equity for all of our Commonwealth’s residents.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Lesser was named Senate Chair of the Legislative Library Caucus, a group of legislators who make library funding a specific concern and priority.

Among the public libraries’ priorities are increased funding for technology upgrades to bring high-speed internet access to all public libraries.

Nearly 30,000 people in Massachusetts rely on public libraries for internet access. Many communities in Western Massachusetts in particular still lack access to broadband internet.

“We know that free and open access to information is the great equalizer in our society. No matter what station you come from, no matter what family you’re born into, no matter what your circumstances are in life, if you have the same access to information as everybody else, then all of a sudden the playing field starts to get just a little more level,” said Sen. Lesser.

“In an era of overflowing and unlimited information, the role that each of you play as librarians, as custodians of that information and as a trusted access point for people to information is more important than ever before,” he added.

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Senator Lesser Calls On Residents to Attend State Rail Plan Public Meeting in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is holding its only public hearing on the 2018 State Rail Plan in Western Massachusetts on Friday, and Senator Eric P. Lesser is encouraging residents to attend to have their voices heard.

“The 2018 State Rail Plan is in draft form until the public comment period closes on February 19. If you support a study to look at the costs and benefits of a rail link connecting Springfield to Boston, you need to let MassDOT know so that they can see the support this has in Western Mass,” Sen. Lesser said.

Sen. Lesser held a press conference on Monday to announce the inclusion of an east-west rail study in MassDOT’s State Rail Plan as a “major breakthrough” in a years-long effort to get a study completed. At that conference, he noted that the 2018 State Rail Plan is a draft, and is currently open for public comment until Feb. 19.

He told residents that making their support of a study known to MassDOT was “vital at this moment” to ensure that it is included in the final published Plan.

Sen. Lesser will attend MassDOT’s public meeting on the draft State Rail Plan, which is being held at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and calls on residents to join him:

WHAT: MassDOT will hold its only announced public hearing in Western Massachusetts on the 2018 State Rail Plan. Public comment on the Plan closes on Feb. 19.

WHEN: Friday, February 2 at 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St., Springfield, MA 01104

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Senator Lesser Welcomes $2 Million in Cultural Grants to Western Massachusetts

HOLYOKE — Senator Eric P. Lesser joined Senators Donald Humason, Jr., and Adam Hinds, and Representative Aaron Vega in Holyoke on Thursday for the Mass Cultural Council’s announcement of $2 million in new grants to Western Massachusetts.

The announcement is part of the Council’s new vision and strategic plan, unveiled at www.powerofculturema.org.

The Council awarded $12 million in new grants to nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, artists and communities across the state.

“Our culture and tourism sector is a vital component of our state’s economy, particularly in Western Mass. With a vibrant new attraction in the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, and thousands of new tourists coming to the area thanks to MGM Springfield, we must continue to invest in our cultural economy. That investment pays dividends in more jobs and more tourism dollars in our local economy,” said Senator Lesser.

Senator Lesser was invited to deliver remarks at the grant announcement ceremony at the Holyoke Creative Arts Center.

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Public transportation is investment in Springfield’s future

By Sen. Eric Lesser and Jesse Mermell in CommonWealth Magazine 6/28/17

Forgive us for opening old wounds, but it was just two years ago this spring that our state was crippled with foot after foot of snow. There was perhaps no more striking example of how dependent our economy is on reliable transportation.

One economic analysis reported that Massachusetts lost $1 billion in wages and profits due to the storms — losses directly tied to the inability of employees, customers, and goods to get from point A to point B on roads, bridges and public transit.

Western Massachusetts doesn’t need a series of blizzards to understand the role that access to transportation plays in creating economic growth. This region’s substandard transportation infrastructure, and shortage of convenient travel options east, hampers the economic future of the area on even the sunniest summer day.

Today, getting from Springfield to Boston by train takes three hours. There is just one train a day and it is only on schedule half the time. As a result, Greater Springfield residents are virtually cut off from the red-hot economy of Greater Boston, and those who do commute east have little choice but to travel nearly two hours by car or bus on the Mass Pike – emitting greenhouse gases and increasing levels of highway congestion.

Traveling around the region isn’t much better.  A 2013 study conducted by MassINC showed that riders who depend on the current inter-city bus system, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, for their commutes spend an average of 15 minutes longer getting to work each day than those who drive in their own vehicles.

Public transportation should make it easier, not harder, for employees to get to their jobs, whether they’re traveling across town by bus or across the state by train.

This month brought significant progress with the unveiling of a renovated Union Station, and with it the launch of 12 new trains making the trek from Springfield to New Haven and Hartford each day, as well as improved bus facilities.

While this important progress should be celebrated, one need only look to Springfield’s past to understand how much brighter its future could be if the recent developments included a study of the potential in connecting the region to other economic centers of the state.

Read the full op-ed at CommonWealthMagazine.org –>

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Eric P. Lesser, represents the First Hampden & Hampshire District in the Massachusetts Senate and is Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies. He also leads Millennial Outreach for the state Senate. Jesse Mermell is president of the Alliance for Business Leadership.