Tag Archive for: press releases

Road Repair

Senator Lewis Announces $375 Million for Local Transportation Improvements

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives passed a $375 million bill to fund transportation improvements across the state. Each municipality will receive a share of funds to finance local transportation infrastructure, including road and bridge repairs, sidewalk improvements, and more.

Along with designating funding for individual communities, the legislation also authorizes funding for various grant programs that will further assist municipalities with transportation-related projects, including:

  • Municipal Pavement Program, which focuses on the improvement of municipally owned state numbered routes;
  • Municipal Small Bridge Program, which provides financial support to cities and towns for small bridge replacement, preservation, and rehabilitation projects;
  • Complete Streets Funding Program, which provides funding to municipalities for streets that provide safe and accessible options for all travel modes such as walking, biking, transit, and vehicles;
  • Municipal Bus Enhancement Program, which provides grant funding to build out infrastructure related to mass transit by bus;
  • Mass Transit Access Grant Program, which provides grants for design and construction improvements to access commuter rail stations or other mass transit stations, such as parking lots, drop-off and pick-up zones, bike storage infrastructure, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
  • Municipal/RTA EV Grant Program, which provides grants to Regional Transit Authorities and municipalities for the purchase of electric vehicles and related charging equipment; and
  • Rural Roads Program, which supports the additional road infrastructure needs of rural communities.

“I’m very pleased that the state legislature is providing these critical funds to our local communities for transportation improvements,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “I know that this money will certainly be put to good use improving roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure.”

Having received final passage by both the House and Senate, the bill was signed into law by Governor Maura Healey outside Melrose City Hall on May 3, 2024.

Senator Lewis and Massachusetts Senate Pass Consumer Protection Bills

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to protect residents and consumers from predatory tactics and promote fairer interactions with businesses in the state, passing three bills that would ban third-party residential electric suppliers, enhance the state’s protections for car buyers, and mandate home insurers cover residential oil spill damages.

“I’m very pleased that the state Senate is taking action to better protect Massachusetts residents from businesses that target consumers with scams and unfair, deceptive tactics,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “This is especially true of third-party residential electric suppliers that have scammed hundreds of millions of dollars from seniors, low-income people, and other residents of the Commonwealth.”

An Act relative to electric ratepayer protections bans third-party electric suppliers from enrolling new individual residential customers in contracts and protects residents from unfair and deceptive practices in the competitive electric supply market. According to the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Utilities, Massachusetts’ consumers lost more than $577 million to competitive electric suppliers between July 2015 and June 2023. The industry uses deceptive advertising and marketing techniques to prey upon vulnerable consumers.

On the same day, the state Senate also passed two additional consumer protection bills. An Act relative to the remediation of home heating oil releases mandates that insurers in Massachusetts provide residential owners with insurance for damage to home and property caused by a leak in a residential liquid fuel tank or home fuel supply lines. An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions creates legal safeguards for residents who purchase used and leased cars in Massachusetts by adding new consumer protections in the car buying process.

These three bills now head to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for further consideration.

Senator Jason Lewis Invites the Public to Attend a Virtual Town Hall on May 7

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis will be holding a virtual Town Hall meeting to provide an opportunity for members of the public to share their feedback and ask him questions about state and local issues. The Town Hall will be held on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

The event will be live-streamed on the Senator’s YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/LewisTownHall2024) and a recording will also be available after the event. Senator Lewis will start the Town Hall with a brief update from Beacon Hill, and then participants will be able to ask questions and provide feedback.

Senator Lewis and State Senate Act to Protect Consumers and Make Debt Collections Fairer

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to unanimously pass legislation to protect consumers and help keep people from being pushed into financial ruin if they are sued for financial debt. The new law would make debt collection practices fairer, protect wages, and make clear that no person can go to prison for their debt.

The Debt Collection Fairness Act would protect thousands of families across the state, including many in communities of color, by reducing the interest rate from 12% to 3% on judgments on consumer debt, which is often old debt that has been bought by debt collection companies for pennies on the dollar.

It would also protect at least $975 in wages per week from a person subject to wage garnishment because of a debt and ensure that no one in the Commonwealth is imprisoned for failure to pay a consumer debt. Currently only $750 per week in wages is protected from garnishment. The bill would also reduce, from 6 years to 5 years, the time in which a company can bring suit to collect a consumer debt.

“Exploitative debt collection practices have been used for too long to harm low- and middle-income families, especially people of color,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “The Debt Collection Fairness Act creates much-needed safeguards to protect working families from exorbitant charges by debt collection companies and open paths to recovery for those in financial distress.”

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for their consideration.

Summer 2023 Interns with staff

Senator Lewis Accepting Applications for Summer 2024 Internships

State Senator Jason Lewis is seeking candidates for a summer internship with his office. Senator Lewis proudly represents the people of the Fifth Middlesex District of Massachusetts, which includes the cities and towns of Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and parts of Winchester. Senator Lewis is a member of Senate President Karen Spilka’s leadership team, and serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and the Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee. He also co-founded and co-chairs the legislature’s Zero Waste Caucus and Middlesex Fells Caucus. He has been a leader in shaping public policy on a range of issues important to his district, region, and the state, including education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for all. 

Interns will support the Senator’s staff in a variety of ways, but we are specifically looking for interns with interest in one or more of the following:

  • implementing the Senator’s communications strategy,
  • supporting local projects and our work with organizations in the district, or
  • assisting with constituent services.

Tasks may include: 

  • attending project briefings, 
  • researching information and statistics, 
  • creating pamphlets and charts, 
  • drafting social media posts, and 
  • event planning. 

Interns will have the unique opportunity to engage with policymaking, politics, and government from the inside. Although unpaid, interns will obtain meaningful experience by witnessing and participating in the day-to-day functioning of a State Senate office with a special focus on our work with the Education Committee.

Interns must have strong written and verbal communication skills and attention to detail. Candidates must also be comfortable with Microsoft Office, Google applications, and major social media platforms. Preference will be given to applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent. Applications from the Fifth Middlesex District are strongly encouraged. Hours and duration of internship are flexible, though ideal applicants will be available 8-10 hours per week. This position will be in-person, hybrid, or fully remote. 

Our office does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, or age. Applicants of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

Candidates should send a resume and a brief letter of interest to Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov by Thursday, April 18, 2024. References should be available upon request. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so interested parties are encouraged to apply promptly. With questions, please call (617) 722-1206.

Senator Lewis Leads Passage in State Senate of Transformative Early Education and Childcare Bill

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis, the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, led his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to unanimously pass the EARLY ED Act to make high-quality early education and childcare more accessible and affordable in Massachusetts.

The EARLY ED Act takes transformative steps to improve the affordability and sustainability of childcare programs by making the state’s Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) operational grant program permanent, expanding eligibility to more families for the state’s subsidy program and capping subsidy recipients’ childcare costs at no more than 7 percent of family income, and boosting compensation for early educators by creating a career ladder and providing scholarships and loan forgiveness.

“Access to high-quality, affordable early education and childcare is essential for the healthy development of young children, as well as for the economic well-being of working families and employers in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “With the passage today of the EARLY ED Act, Massachusetts is demonstrating national leadership in addressing the broken early education and childcare system in our country. I’m very grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka for her passionate leadership on this issue; the Common Start coalition for their years-long advocacy to build grassroots momentum; and all the early education providers, educators, parents, and advocates who have shared their struggles, ideas, and expertise throughout the process of developing this transformative legislation.”

Massachusetts is one of the most expensive states for early education and childcare. The average annual cost of care is $21,000 for an infant; $19,000 for a toddler; and $15,000 for a pre-schooler. Many families are paying as much as 20-40% of their household income for childcare. Besides the high cost, families also face other barriers, including lack of available slots at their preferred providers, hours of available care, transportation challenges, and more.

The EARLY ED Act will address these challenges by increasing subsidy eligibility for families from 50% of State Median Income (SMI) to 85%, or from $73,000 annual income for a family of four to $124,000 annual income. Priority will continue to be given to lower-income and high needs children. The bill also paves the way for further expanding the subsidy program in stages until it reaches 125% of SMI, or $182,000 for a family of four, when future funds become available.

Parent out-of-pocket fees for subsidized children would be capped at a maximum of 7% of family household income, which is the federal recommended affordability standard. Families below the Federal Poverty Level would pay no fees. And the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) would be required to update parent fees at least every 5 years to ensure they remain affordable for families.

By extending access to high-quality education and care to families who currently lack access because of cost or availability, the bill seeks to set children up for future success and drive the Massachusetts economy forward. The legislation also improves access to high-quality care and affordability for children and families by:

  • Requiring EEC to annually evaluate and eliminate barriers to subsidy access for eligible families, and improve outreach so more families will know that they may be eligible for assistance;
  • Requiring providers who receive operational grants to enroll subsidized children, thereby increasing available options for these families; and
  • Creating a new competitive matching grant pilot program to incentivize employers, or groups of employers, to expand access to childcare for their workers. Preference would be given to proposals that prioritize families with lower incomes and those that target childcare deserts.

Early education providers also face chronic challenges with attracting and retaining early educators and other staff. The EARLY ED Act continues to stabilize early education providers, improve program quality, and further expand capacity by:

  • Making the state’s C3 operational grants, which provide monthly payments to 92% of programs in the state, permanent;
  • Requiring EEC to use an actual cost-of-quality-care methodology for setting subsidy reimbursement rates and calculating operational grants;
  • Requiring EEC to calculate subsidy rates based on quarterly enrollment rather than daily attendance of children;
  • Removing the statutory cap on the number of children that can be served by a family childcare provider, and allowing EEC to establish safe ratios as they do already for group programs;
  • Taking steps to strengthen the recruitment and pipeline of early educators in order to meet the workforce needs of providers; and
  • Barring zoning ordinances from prohibiting family childcare programs in certain areas, preventing an unnecessary hurdle to the expansion of childcare slots.

The early education workforce in Massachusetts is 92% female and 41% women of color, and in 2022, the average annual salary was $39,000. To improve compensation and benefits for early educators, the EARLY ED Act requires EEC to develop a career ladder that links educational attainment and work experience to compensation and benefits. It also supports the early education workforce by: 

  • Recommending compensation levels commensurate with public school teachers with similar credentials throughout the career ladder;
  • Enshrining into law early educator scholarship and loan forgiveness programs to provide greater access to higher education and professional development opportunities; and
  • Enabling subsidized providers to offer free or discounted seats for the children of their own staff.

Some additional strategies included in the EARLY ED Act that will further improve and strengthen early education and childcare quality, affordability, and access include:

  • Creating a Data Advisory Commission to work with EEC on expanded data collection and reporting, and the improved use of data to inform the cost and quality of care;
  • Directing EEC and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to study and report on ways that employers could provide more childcare support to their employees, including the feasibility of assessing employers to help fund expanded access to high-quality, affordable early education and childcare;
  • Requiring EEC to create a plan to pilot and scale shared service models that can improve the efficient delivery of high-quality care;
  • Requiring EEC to report to the legislature on ways to expand successful local partnerships, such as the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (or CPPI); and
  • Requiring EEC and the Children’s Investment Fund to report to the legislature on ways to improve and expand the impact of the Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund for making improvements to early education facilities.

The EARLY ED Act is based on the recommendations made by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which was chaired by Senator Lewis along with Representative Alice Peisch.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Jason Lewis and the State Senate Pass the Healthy Youth Act

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass the Healthy Youth Act, which would ensure that Massachusetts public schools electing to teach sexual health education curriculum use age-appropriate, inclusive, medically accurate, and research-based information on sex, relationships, and consent.

The Healthy Youth Act would enhance parental rights and codify into law the voluntary health curriculum framework approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) last year. It calls for sex and relationship education to be inclusive and appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

“Providing comprehensive, age-appropriate, and medically accurate sex and relationship education to our youth is the best way to prepare them to make safe and healthy choices,” said State Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m pleased that the Senate is continuing to advance this legislation that ensures that Massachusetts public schools use research-informed curricula that prioritize inclusivity and the health and well-being of all students.”

Ensuring that Massachusetts public schools use a research-informed curriculum that provides medically accurate, age-appropriate, and comprehensive sexual health information would protect young people from inaccurate or misleading information. It will also help young people to develop healthy relationships, both with friends and romantic partners, emphasizing that relationships should always be free of coercion, intimidation, abuse, and violence.

The Healthy Youth Act would ensure that sex ed curricula are inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. This is especially important given the right-wing attacks on the LGBTQ+ community here in Massachusetts and around the country.

Lastly, the Healthy Youth Act would require DESE to collect data on sex and relationship education taught in public schools, and also ensure that going forward the health curriculum framework is updated no less frequently than every ten years.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Lewis Appointed to Serve on Ballot Question Special Committee

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis has been appointed by Senate President Karen Spilka to serve on the newly created Special Joint Committee on Initiative Petitions. This committee is charged with reviewing and making recommendations to the full legislature on citizen initiative petitions that may appear as ballot questions in the November 2024 statewide elections.

The topics of these initiative petitions are: (1) removing the MCAS as a high school graduation requirement; (2) defining rideshare driver rights, including the right to unionize; (3) legalizing and regulating natural psychedelic substances; (4) authorizing the state auditor to audit the legislature; and (5) requiring the full minimum wage for tipped workers.

The eight-member special joint committee, comprised of four lawmakers each from the Senate and the House of Representatives, will delve into each of the topics under consideration.

“I’m honored to be appointed to serve on this special committee that is tasked with reviewing the complex set of potential 2024 ballot questions,” said State Senator Jason Lewis, who also serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “In 2018, I was proud to help negotiate the successful resolution of several pending ballot questions, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and creating a universal paid family and medical leave program for Massachusetts residents.” 

The Massachusetts Constitution provides residents with a pathway to pass laws directly by popular vote. Subject to review by the Attorney General, supporters of ballot questions must submit valid signatures from residents across the Commonwealth who support advancing a proposal. These initiative petitions are then transmitted to the state legislature which must consider the petitions and may choose to, among other options, decline to act on the proposal and allow the ballot question process to move forward, work with petitioners on a compromise, or order an alternative ballot question to be printed alongside the proposal for voter consideration. 

After legislative review, if the legislature declines to act on a ballot question or pass a compromise version, supporters of the proposal must then gather another round of additional signatures for submission to the Secretary of the Commonwealth in order for the question to be presented to voters in the statewide election in November.

Senator Lewis at the Malden Senior Center for an Ice Cream Social, July 2023

Senator Lewis Promotes Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit Before Tax Day

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis is encouraging Massachusetts residents who are 65 or older to explore whether they qualify for the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit when filing their 2023 state tax returns. 

Created by the state legislature in 1999, the Circuit Breaker offers financial relief to eligible seniors by providing a refundable tax credit to help offset property taxes or rent paid on a principal residence in Massachusetts. Although the tax credit was previously capped at $1,200 for 2022 tax filing purposes, recent changes approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Healey last year have doubled the maximum tax credit to $2,590 for the 2023 tax year. 

“I strongly encourage all residents who are 65 or older to find out if they are eligible for the Senior Circuit Breaker,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “This program has brought relief to many seniors struggling with high housing costs and is one of many important tools being used by the state to make housing more affordable.”

The tax credit is available to Massachusetts residents who are 65 or older by December 31, 2023, and who own or rent residential property in Massachusetts which they occupy as their primary residence. For married couples filing jointly, only one person needs to be 65 or older by December 31, 2023, to qualify. The tax credit applies to residential properties with an assessed valuation (before residential exemptions but after abatements) of $1,025,000 or less as of January 1, 2023.  

Applicants must also meet certain income eligibility requirements to qualify for the tax credit. Total annual income is currently capped at $69,000 for single individuals who are not the head of a household, $86,000 for heads of households, and $103,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. 

For homeowners to qualify, their Massachusetts property tax payments, together with half of their water and sewer expenses, must exceed 10% of their total Massachusetts income for the tax year. For renters, 25% of their annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10% of their total Massachusetts income for the tax year. Seniors living in public or subsidized housing are not eligible for the Circuit Breaker. 

To claim the tax credit, applicants must complete a Schedule CB (Circuit Breaker Credit) tax form and file it along with the standard Massachusetts Form 1 or Form 1-NR/PY income tax form. Applicants must file a Massachusetts state tax return to receive the tax credit, even if they do not owe taxes. 

For more details on the Senior Circuit Breaker or for copies of the required tax forms, go to www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-senior-circuit-breaker-tax-credit or contact the Department of Revenue’s Customer Service Bureau at 617-887-6367 (toll-free at 1-800-392-6089) between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For additional help, please reach out to my office by emailing me at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or calling my office at 617-722-1206.

Senate President Karen Spilka announcing the Senate gun bill debate along with Senator Lewis, other senators, gun violence prevention advocates, and chiefs of police

Senator Lewis Supports Passage of Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass, with bipartisan support, An Act to sensibly address firearm violence through effective reform—the SAFER Act—to increase firearm safety in the state and reduce gun violence without infringing on the constitutional rights of gun owners.

The SAFER Act was drafted after hearing extensive public testimony, and following months of discussions with stakeholders and advocates with diverse perspectives on the issue. The bill has been endorsed by gun violence prevention advocates, district attorneys, and police chiefs, including the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

“Massachusetts is already a national leader in combating gun violence, but there is always more we can and must do to make our communities as safe as possible for all of our residents,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “This legislation was carefully crafted to focus on policies that will further reduce gun violence, including suicides, while respecting the rights of lawful gun owners in the Commonwealth.”

The bill includes the following provisions:

  • Ghost Guns. Updates the state’s laws to bring Massachusetts in line with national standards and to ensure accountability and oversight for those who possess unserialized and untraceable firearms.
  • Assault Weapons. Codifies the state’s existing prohibition on assault weapons and copies or duplicates of those weapons.
  • Glock Switches and Trigger Activators. Makes it illegal to possess devices that convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns.
  • Inspections of Gun Dealers. Ensures that gun dealers are inspected annually and allows the Massachusetts State Police to conduct those inspections if the local police department does not or cannot do so.
  • Red Flag Law and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). Allows health care professionals to petition courts to remove firearms and licenses from patients who pose a risk to themselves or others. The bill also allows preemptive orders to prevent a dangerous individual from obtaining a license to carry a firearm.
  • Harassment Prevention Orders. Protects survivors of harassment by requiring courts to compel the surrender of firearms by individuals who are subject to harassment protection orders who pose an immediate threat.
  • Sensitive Places. Prohibits the carrying of firearms in government administrative buildings, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and municipalities that choose to opt out.
  • Mental Health and Gun Licensing. Ensures that firearm licensing authorities have access to certain information about an applicant’s history of involuntary mental health hospitalizations due to posing a serious harm—with appropriate safeguards to guarantee privacy and due process. 
  • Data Collection. Creates a more robust data reporting and analysis mechanism for guns used in crimes, suicides, and attempted suicides to ensure that the Commonwealth can better target training and enforcement efforts.
  • Gun Industry Accountability in Advertising. Prohibits the marketing of unlawful firearm sales to minors and allows industry actors to be held civilly liable if such marketing practices lead to an individual being harmed.
  • Firing at a Dwelling. Creates a criminal charge for intentionally firing a gun at a dwelling or other building in use.
  • Do-Not-Sell List. Creates a voluntary do-not-sell firearm database to allow individuals who worry they may be a threat to themselves or others to voluntarily exclude themselves from having the ability to purchase firearms.
  • Community Violence Prevention. Creates a commission to analyze the allocation of state violence prevention funding and recommend changes to reduce gun violence in disproportionately impacted communities; develops a pilot program to promote gun safety awareness and firearms licensing education; and establishes a task force to make recommendations for maximizing federal funding for gun violence prevention in the most equitable way.
  • Emerging Firearm Technology. Establishes a commission to study emerging firearm technology, with a particular focus on products and features that could increase safety.

With both the state Senate and House of Representatives having now passed gun bills, a Conference Committee will be appointed to reconcile the differences between the two bills.