Senator Jason Lewis Reads to Children at the Stoneham Public Library

Senator Jason Lewis recently joined several of his youngest constituents in the Children’s Room of the Stoneham Public Library for the library’s weekly StoryTime.  Senator Lewis and the kids read Swimmy by Leo Lionni and I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.  Opinions were split between which book was the children’s favorite, but Senator Lewis enjoyed them as much as the kids did!

 

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Senator Jason Lewis to Hold Forum in Wakefield on Education Funding

Later this month, Senator Jason Lewis, in collaboration with the Wakefield School Committee and Wakefield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Zrike, will present a public information session on state education finance reform.  Residents of the 5th Middlesex district are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts and feedback.

The presentation will take place on Wednesday, September 24, at 6:30pm at The Savings Bank Theater at Wakefield High School, 60 Farm Street, Wakefield.

“I am committed to making sure that our cities and towns receive adequate and equitable resources from the Commonwealth in order to provide a second-to-none public education for our young people,” said Senator Lewis.  “This forum will be an opportunity for residents of the 5th Middlesex district to gain information on how those resources are allocated and to feel empowered to have an impact on this critically important issue.”

In addition to Senator Lewis, presenters will include Wakefield School Committee member Christopher Callanan and Colin Jones of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MBPC).  Mr. Jones is the Education Policy Analyst at the MBPC, and will focus his remarks on demystifying the Chapter 70 education financing formula, as well as on discussing ways to address inadequacy and inequity in state education financing today.

There will also be ample opportunity for members of the public to ask questions of the presenters, as well as for audience members to discuss the issues raised and offer their thoughts.

Melrose Legislative Delegation at the Melrose Dog Park

Melrose’s legislative delegation, State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Paul Brodeur, held a special outdoor District Office Hour yesterday at the Melrose Dog Park.  They discussed significant animal rights legislation that was signed into law this year and took questions from area residents.  Senator Lewis and Representative Brodeur also enjoyed meeting several of their four-legged constituents.

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Senator Jason Lewis Receives 2014 YMCA Legislative Champion Award

Senator Jason Lewis recently received a 2014 YMCA Legislative Champion Award from the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, thanking Senator Lewis for his “outstanding service” during the 2013-2014 legislative session.  In a letter accompanying the award, Executive Director Peter R. Doliber noted Senator Lewis’ support for key programs benefiting children, including early education and Youth-At-Risk funding, as well as the Active Streets program that enables communities to provide safe places for children to play.

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Senator Jason Lewis’ West Nile Virus Prevention Legislation Passes Senate

Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce that yesterday the Massachusetts Senate passed his legislation to strengthen municipalities’ ability to combat the mosquito-borne disease West Nile Virus.

Senator Lewis’ bill would return to municipal public works employees and seasonal workers the authority to drop non-toxic pesticide pellets into storm drains and catch basins in an effort to eliminate breeding grounds for Culex mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus.  Between 2001 and 2009, public works employees were authorized to use pesticides in this manner; but, in 2010, the Department of Agricultural Resources opted not to renew that authorization, leaving licensed professional pesticide applicators as the only authorized population.

“It is critically important that our communities have the tools needed to proactively combat the spread of serious diseases like West Nile Virus,” said Senator Lewis.  “My legislation will simply return to municipal officials the authority to use the tools at their disposal to safeguard the public health for residents of our cities and towns.”

“The passage of this legislation is very important for public health in that local government will be allowed to directly provide critical protection measures to control mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus,” said Jennifer Murphy, Director of the Health Department for the Town of Winchester.  “This prevention service will be provided in a timely, cost-effective and safe manner, and is a critical step in protecting public health by reducing the risk of these mosquito-borne diseases.”

With a surge in cases of West Nile Virus in recent years, public health advocates and municipal officials have been calling for the restoration of this policy.  In recent days, mosquitoes found in Roslindale and Jamaica Plain have tested positive for West Nile.

The legislation passed the House earlier this year, and now heads to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk.

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Senator Jason Lewis Supports Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

The Massachusetts Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees and bring a higher level of transparency to elections in the Commonwealth, Senator Jason Lewis announced.

“The more transparent our political process is, the more faith voters will have in it,” noted Senator Lewis.  “This legislation holds true to that fundamental value by strengthening the ability of voters to know who is funding political activity in elections – where the money is coming from and where it is going – in a more comprehensive and in a more timely fashion.  In a post-Citizens United world, this legislation is an important step in the right direction to restore necessary oversight in our politics.”

Under the bill, corporations, labor unions and political committees will be required to report within seven business days of making an independent expenditure or within twenty-four hours of making an independent expenditure if the expenditure is made within ten days but more than twenty-four hours before a primary or general election.

Senator Lewis broke with many in his political party when he voted for an amendment offered by Republican Senator Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, which would have closed a loophole that allows some organizations to exceed the $500 contribution limit by giving up to $15,000 to a single candidate.  However, the amendment failed 28-10.

Legislators did move to enhance their own campaign finance reporting, as the bill increases the frequency of reporting for state legislative candidates.  Under the bill, candidates for state Senate or Representative must file with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) by July 20 before a biennial state election and by the thirty-fifth day before a special primary, among other reporting requirements.

The bill requires any independent expenditure or electioneering communication transmitted through paid television, internet advertising, or print advertising appearing larger than fifteen square inches to include a written statement of the top five contributors if contributions exceed $5,000 and directions to OCPF website for a listing of all contributors.

The bill directs political action committees to designate a depository for campaign funds and to report on all contributions received and expenditures made twice a month. The bill also prohibits public employees from serving as the treasurer of a political committee.

In addition, the bill increases individual contribution limits from $500 to $1,000 in a calendar year and increases the contribution limit by money order or bank check from $50 to $100.

The bill also removes an aggregate limit on individual campaign contributions in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down a similar federal provision.

The Senate and House will now form a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.

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Gov. Deval Patrick Signs Senator Jason Lewis’ Shark Fin Ban Bill Into Law

Flanked by a dedicated coalition of animal welfare and marine conservation activists, Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday, July 24, signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Jason Lewis that bans the possession, sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins in Massachusetts.  The practice of “shark finning,” which is both morally repugnant and harmful to the health of our oceans,  is when a shark’s fins are sliced off, often while the shark is still alive, with the mutilated shark thrown back into the ocean, unable to swim and left to die.  The fins are primarily used to make shark fin soup.  While the practice of shark finning is prohibited by both federal and state law, the market for fins continues to promote the practice in foreign and international waters.  This law will end that market in Massachusetts.

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Column: Common Sense Solutions to Gun Violence

Recently, the Massachusetts Senate passed thoughtful, comprehensive legislation addressing gun violence that can make a substantive difference for the better in our public health and public safety.  Impressively, a measure of consensus was achieved between gun safety advocates and gun rights activists, with both sides of the issue praising the final legislation.

I was proud to support this legislation.  Further, knowing that this is an issue that can generate significant passion, I was also very pleased that the vast majority of the calls and e-mails I received from constituents – on all sides of the issue – were thoughtful, reasonable, and respectful.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the key provisions of the bill, measures which strengthen oversight, address mental health issues, and generate better communication between schools and law enforcement, without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

The bill calls for stricter background checks, enhanced penalties, new gun-related crimes, increased protections in schools, among other provisions designed to overall ensure a safer Commonwealth.

The bill permits Massachusetts to join the National Instant Background Check System, allowing the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) to transmit to the U.S. Attorney General all the information that is required of the system.

The bill makes changes to tighten and secure regulations for authorized gun dealers and sales. It authorizes gun dealers to acquire criminal offender record information for all of their employees.   Further, the bill requires all secondary market gun sales to be conducted over a real-time web portal to be developed under DCJIS.

In a measure that should please those concerned with arbitrary or capricious infringement on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, the bill requires law enforcement to document in writing the rationale for denying a License to Carry (LTC).  This will provide any citizen who feels that he/she was wrongfully denied a LTC the opportunity to appeal the decision and receive due process.  The bill also eliminates the 90-day renewal process for both the Firearms Identification (FID) Card and LTC, and leaves unchanged existing FID permitting standards.

The bill removes pepper spray and mace from the Firearms Identification Card requirements for those ages 18 or older, but still requires persons between the ages of 15 and 18 to obtain a firearms identification card, with the permission of a parent or guardian, to possess pepper spray.

To support a secure and safe learning environment in our schools, the bill puts in place many provisions to tighten security and increase communication and training in events of emergency, including amending the medical emergency response plans schools are required to develop by requiring consultation with local police, fire, and emergency personnel.

In addition, the bill requires chiefs of police, in consultation with superintendents, to assign school resource officers to provide law enforcement and services to school districts, a measure that is subject to appropriation from the state Legislature for implementation.  School districts must also have access to two-way communication devices for communication with police and fire departments during emergencies.

Addressing a concern raised by individuals on all sides of the issue in the Commonwealth and across the country, the bill places an emphasis on expanding mental health awareness and treatment, implementing required training regarding suicide awareness and prevention to licensed school personnel.

The Senate and House, which previously passed its own gun safety legislation, will now work together to produce a final, compromise bill.  Ultimately, I’m confident that the measures in this legislation achieve the desired goal of making our communities safer without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Of course, no one piece of legislation will prevent all acts of violence from ever occurring, but I believe that this legislation represents true progress in reducing gun violence.

Additionally, I’m heartened that the process that generated the bill brought people together from all sides of the issue, rather than driving people further apart.  This serves as an example of what we can accomplish when we are willing to compromise and listen to one another to achieve common sense solutions.

Senator Jason Lewis Proud to Support Legislation to Protect Safe Access to Women’s Health Clinics

The Massachusetts Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to enhance public safety and remove barriers to access reproductive health care facilities in Massachusetts, Senator Jason Lewis announced.  This urgent legislative action follows the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down buffer zones across the nation, including the existing 35-foot buffer zone that was passed by the Legislature in 2007.

“Women should never have to fear for their safety simply for trying to access health care services,” said Senator Lewis.  “I will always vote to protect a woman’s right to choose, and I will always advocate for safe access to exercising that choice.  This legislation responsibly helps restore women’s privacy, respect, and safety when accessing health care while addressing First Amendment concerns.”

To enhance the ability of law enforcement officials to maintain public safety, the bill prohibits certain conduct outside reproductive health care facilities that threatens access and safety.  The bill authorizes law enforcement officials to order immediate withdrawal of individuals who have on that day substantially impeded access to a facility entrance or driveway.  After the order is issued, the individuals must remain at least twenty-five feet from the facility’s entrances and driveways for a maximum of eight hours. The 25-foot boundary must be clearly marked and the reflecting law must be posted.

The legislation also prohibits a person from intentionally injuring or intimidating, or attempting to do the same, a person trying to access or depart from a facility by force, physical act or threat of force.

The bill prohibits impeding a patient or staff member’s access to or departure from a facility with the intent to interfere with that person’s ability to obtain or provide health care services.  It also prohibits knowingly impeding an individual or vehicle’s access to or departure from a facility, as well as prohibiting recklessly interfering with the operation of a vehicle that attempts to enter, exit, or park at a facility.  Violations of any of these provisions can result in arrest and criminal charges.

In addition, the bill enhances the ability of private parties and the Attorney General to ensure compliance by filing a civil action in court.  The bill allows an affected individual, entity, or the Attorney General to bring a civil action in Superior Court seeking injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees.  The court may also award civil penalties.  Any violation of an injunction would constitute a criminal offense.  These provisions largely reflect the civil remedies available under the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

The bill also amends the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA) to allow the Attorney General to obtain compensatory damages on behalf of an affected individual or entity, recover litigation costs and fees and seek civil penalties for the interference of constitutional rights.  The Attorney General currently has the ability through the existing MCRA to seek injunctions where an individual or group “interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion, or attempt to interfere by threats, intimidation or coercion” with the exercise of a protected right, including the right to access reproductive health care.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

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Senator Jason Lewis Announces Flood Mitigation Funding for Wakefield

This week, the Massachusetts Senate passed an environmental bond bill; and, Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce funding in the legislation directly benefitting the town of Wakefield.

Senator Lewis successfully secured in the Senate’s environmental bond bill $1 million for the creation of a flood management feasibility study for the Saugus River in Wakefield.

“This important funding will address a critically urgent need for Wakefield,” said Senator Lewis.  “Better flood preparation is a necessary investment that will benefit the families of Wakefield and stem environmental and economic problems in the future from preventable flooding.”

Another noteworthy feature of the environmental bond bill is that it establishes a Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investment Fund for projects related to seawalls, jetties, revetments, retaining walls, and inland flood control, which will allow Massachusetts to better prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Additionally, the bill included a number of provisions to improve the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency and enhance our environment, including: $310 million for the accelerated energy program to improve the energy efficiency of state-owned facilities; $75.4 million for the Department of Environmental Protection for investment in water and air quality protection; $10 million for the Department of Energy and Resources’ Leading by Example Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts; $5 million for recreational trails matching grants; and, $3 million for oil or hazardous waste assessment, containment, cleanup, control, removal, or response.

With the state House of Representatives having passed their version of the environmental bond bill, the Legislature will now form a conference committee to negotiate a compromise between the two bills.

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