Eric Lesser

Senator

Longmeadow, MA

As the youngest member of the Massachusetts Senate, Senator Lesser champions civic engagement and greater participation in public affairs. He serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, and Senate Vice-Chair of the Committee on Financial Services.

Senator Lesser earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 2007. Upon graduating, he joined the Obama for America campaign, during which he traveled with then-Senator Obama across 47 states. Following President Obama’s historic victory, Senator Lesser served as Special Assistant to White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, and later as Director of Strategic Planning for the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Senator Lesser is also a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and was named a “Face of the Democratic Future” by American Prospect Magazine.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

Over the next 10 years, more than 44,000 jobs in the precision manufacturing sector will go unfilled in Massachusetts, due to a lack of qualified workers, despite the fact that the average salary in this industry can approach $75,000. Historically, Western Massachusetts has been left out of the red-hot economy in the eastern part of the state. Part of that problem is a gap between the number of well-paying, stable manufacturing jobs and the number of local residents who can fill them. 

Solution

Senator Eric Lesser has proposed an idea to provide advanced manufacturing training to unemployed and underemployed individuals, including veterans, to build a locally based, highly qualified manufacturing workforce across Massachusetts, particularly in the western Massachusetts where manufacturing was the key employer for 10 generations. The precision manufacturing pilot program is already operating in Western Massachusetts and has resulted in an exciting partnership between the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Inc. and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association. Together these organizations are working with local community colleges, vocational schools and advanced manufacturing companies to train unemployed and underemployed individuals, career changers and youth across the region.


Problem

 “Patent trolls” tax our innovation economy by amassing thousands of cheap, second-rate patents and deploying them on unsuspecting small companies, claiming unauthorized use of their intellectual property. These companies gain the rights to patents for the sole purpose of profiting through litigation or licensing, rather than by producing their own bonafide goods or services. The number of patent lawsuits has increased tenfold since 2000, and more than 60% of all patent lawsuits are filed by these “non-practicing entities," up from 30% in 2009. And with an average lawsuit costing $1.6 million, the nefarious actions of patent trolls add up quickly. Settlements can cost upwards of $30,000, which can be devastating to a small start-up with limited capital. New companies are already at risk of failure for plenty of reasons apart from patent trolls unfairly gaming the legal system.

Solution

My legislation would protect innovation and entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth by prohibiting making a bad faith assertion of patent infringement and creating a legal means for companies to defend themselves from those litigating or threatening patent infringement litigation in bad faith. Studies have shown that in states with an already established VC presence, like Massachusetts, the passage of anti-troll laws leads to a 19% increase in the number of firms receiving VC funding, and my legislation can help us realize that economic potential.


Problem

While Massachusetts consistently ranks first in education when compared to the rest of the country, there are still many schools and school districts that have fallen behind and are in need of improvement. As legislators, it is our job to find methods and models of education that provide standards and guidelines to our schools, teachers and administrators while also creating enough flexibility in schools and allowing educators to make necessary changes that will provide a better learning environment for our students.

Solution

My legislation would allow for statewide expansion of the Springfield Empowerment School Zone model - a partnership between the state, school officials and the teachers’ union in which select schools in a district operate autonomously, under control of an independent board of directors, gaining flexibility in the following areas: curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing, professional development and school district policies and procedures. The Empowerment Zone model enabled eight middle schools in Springfield to build on current systems and preserve local talent, while simultaneously bringing in new talent and making improvements elsewhere. As Massachusetts determines the best path forward to improve struggling schools and close the achievement gap, the Empowerment Zone model has emerged as key strategy, hinging on school level autonomy and accountability, along with a focus on an explicit inclusion of local voices.


Problem

At the end of 2016, there were 44 million Americans with $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. In Massachusetts, the average amount of debt per student is $31,466, seventh highest. As government grants and scholarships have not kept pace with the ballooning costs of attending college, students struggling to pay back their loans become prime targets by student loan servicers that are virtually unregulated in Massachusetts. Abusive debt collection practices add insult to injury for students burdened debt that threatens their long-term economic security. Borrowers who are delinquent on payments or in default on a student loan are especially at risk, which was about 25% of all borrowers in 2015 according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Solution

My legislation establishing a student loan bill of rights provides strong protections and education for our student borrowers, while holding student loan servicers accountable to higher standards of practice. While legal action against student loan servicer misconduct has been widespread on both the state and federal level, we must establish a protective state framework surrounding debt repayment by student borrowers.  This Bill of Rights protects borrowers by: establishing a Student Loan Ombudsman in the Division of Banks to educate students about their rights as borrowers, field complaints about loan servicers, and analyze student loan data for potential regulatory or legislative changes while making all data available through public record; requiring that student loan servicers be licensed in Massachusetts and operate under state-mandated standards of conduct; and giving the Bank Commissioner access to all records and evidence from student loan servicers to conduct investigations and enforce any violation of standards of conduct for the purposes of initial licensing, license renewal, suspension, revocation, or termination.


Problem

Smaller cities throughout Massachusetts have experienced much slower economic recoveries from the recession, making it harder for entrepreneurs in these areas to successfully launch and grow their businesses. 

Solution

Senator Eric Lesser proposed legislation this year to offer a tax credit for investors looking to fund high-tech small businesses in small and medium-sized cities across Massachusetts. The tax credit would equal 10% of an investor’s investment in a business, if the business is a small one located in a Gateway City with 75% of its employees working in Massachusetts. This will encourage venture capitalists and other investors to look outside traditional tech centers like Cambridge and help entrepreneurs in other parts of the state get the resources they need to be successful.


Problem

Time and again, servicemembers reentering the civilian workforce find that their military credentials do not entirely align with civilian requirements for a similar job. This can lead to a well-qualified servicemember being unemployed while he or she works to get his or her state-mandated credentials together. At the end of 2016, there were 8,000 unemployed veterans living in Massachusetts, representing 4.6% of the workforce. We can do more for those 8,000 veterans, many of whom may be unemployed due to their military occupational specialty not translating to the civilian workforce.

Solution

My legislation would aid military servicemembers in finding civilian employment by making information on civilian credentialing opportunities available to servicemembers and veterans, helping them make the best decisions on which occupational specialties to pursue during service for their desired profession post-service. This bill also aims to correct burdensome licensing requirements that keep some servicemembers from jobs they're qualified for — helping to correct licensing misalignment through greater transparency of these credentials and requirements. In addition, the bill requires exchange of information about often nuanced requirements to address considerable misunderstanding by both military and civilian employers about what the other requires for equivalent jobs, while also establishing an online resource to make information easily accessible.