The theme of the Senate’s FY18 budget is “Sustaining Our Common Wealth.” Sen. DiDomenico is right that this includes key investments in early education, housing and mental health:
TUESDAY, MAY 23
10:13 a.m.: In an email to Senators, the President and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce announced the Chamber’s support for Sen. Lesser’s amendment to study high-speed rail between Springfield and Boston.
12:30 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of the Community Investment Tax Credit, which funds community development programs such as Way Finders in Springfield. The tax credit will be debated further in the Joint Committee on Revenue.
3:14 p.m.: Amendment #102, which increases reimbursements to regional school districts for transportation, passed the Senate unanimously. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Gobi and co-sponsored by Sen. Lesser.
3:45 p.m.: Amendment #126, which funds Reach Out and Read, passed the Senate. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Boncore.
7:11 p.m.: Sen. Lesser gives a dinner break update on the Senate budget debate so far:
8:00 p.m.: Dinner recess ends and the Senators return to the Chamber to continue debate on the budget.
8:30 p.m.: Sen. Lesser speaks after the passage of Amendment #33, which establishes a commission to evaluate how state aid is disbursed to cities and towns and determine if a fairer allocation formula should be used to give more funds to those cities and towns most in need.
9:00 p.m.: Sen. Lesser votes in favor of Amendment #331, sponsored by Sen. McGee, which retroactively extends the annuity payment period for Gold Star Families. The amendment passed 38–0.
9:17 p.m.: Sen. Lesser speaks in favor of his amendment, #287, to allocate $75,000 to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts for the Partnership for Young Women’s Progress initiative. The Senate then voted in favor of the amendment.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 24
10:42 a.m.: Debate on the Senate budget continues for the second day.
2:22 p.m.: The Senate paused for a moment of silence after reading the names of every Massachusetts member of the armed services who has fallen in the line of duty in the last year.
2:37 p.m.: The Senate voted 38–0 to pass an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tarr that enables the next closest surviving family member to apply for a Medal of Liberty, usually awarded to a surviving spouse, children, siblings or parents of a fallen service member from Massachusetts.
3:40 p.m.: Sen. Lesser gives a quick update from the Reading Room, just across the hall from the Senate Chamber:
3:46 p.m.: The Senate discusses a number of amendments addressing the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts.
4:40 p.m.: Sens. Cyr, Jehlen and Chang-Diaz spoke on Amendment #521 addressing childhood lead poisoning.
4:50 p.m.: Sens. Lesser, Chang-Diaz and Montigny spoke on Sen. Lesser’s amendment, #520, to create an EpiPen bulk purchase program to provide EpiPens to patients and first responders at a reduced cost.
5:10 p.m.: Sen. Lesser reads a letter from a constituent, Dr. Mark Kenton who works at Mercy Medical Center, to the CEO of Mylan, maker of the EpiPen:
5:19 p.m.: The Senate unanimously adopts Sen. Lesser’s amendment to create an EpiPen bulk purchase program.
8:42 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke on his amendment, #674, to help fund the Spirit of Springfield. The Senate then passed the amendment.
8:56 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #689, to fund bilingual exhibits at the Dr. Seuss Museum. The Senate then passed the amendment.
9:00 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #693, to help Valley Venture Mentors launch its collegiate accelerator problem for young entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley. The Senate then passed the amendment.
9:46 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #740, to provide funding to Leadership Pioneer Valley, which works to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the Pioneer Valley region. The Senate then passed the amendment.
9:58 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #749, to provide funding for Springfield’s Tech Foundry for training in technology and job placement. The Senate then passed the amendment.
THURSDAY, MAY 25
11:00 a.m.: By voice vote, the Senate passed Sen. Lesser’s amendment, #841, to provide funding for the installation of a sidewalk and guardrail at Fountain Park in Wilbraham.
11:30 a.m.: By voice vote, the Senate passed Amendment #937 allocating $75,000 to provide security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack. These include the Springfield Jewish Community Center and the Islamic Society of Western Mass, both of which have received threats or harassment in 2017. Sen. Lesser co-sponsored the amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. Chandler.
2:39 p.m.: The Senate passed Amendment #770 to support farmers and Buy Local statewide, sponsored by Sen. Gobi and co-sponsored by Sen. Lesser.
3:00 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #839, to continue funding the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program. The Senate passed the amendment unanimously.
3:15 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke on behalf of his re-filed amendment to study high-speed east-west rail from Boston to Springfield. Sens. Humason, Gobi, Chandler, Spilka and Hinds also spoke in favor of the amendment.
3:30 p.m.: After the vote, Sen. Lesser recorded a quick video about the amendment:
4:49 p.m.: Sen. Lesser’s amendment, #892, to fund the Western Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, passed in a quick voice vote.
4:58 p.m.: The Senate passed Amendment #896, sponsored by Sen. Creem, to increase funding for civil legal aid.
5:56 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke in favor of his amendment, #977, to extend line of duty death benefits to all public employees who are killed while serving the public. The amendment passed in a quick voice vote.
6:50 p.m.: The Senate voted to pass Amendment #75, sponsored by Sen. Chang-Diaz, to establish an implementation schedule for the Foundation Budget Review Commission Recommendations that reevaluates the allocation of public school funding.
8:00 p.m.: The Senate voted to pass Amendment #550, sponsored by Sen. Cyr, to provide funding for Youth at Risk grant programs for vulnerable LGBTQ youth.
8:12 p.m.: By voice vote, the Senate passed Sen. Lesser’s amendment, #694, to fund the Massachusetts Public Art Program.
8:13 p.m.: Sen. Lesser spoke briefly on his amendment, #697, to continue funding for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. By quick voice vote, the Senate passed the amendment.
8:43 p.m.: Sen. Lesser voted with the Senate to pass Amendment #43, sponsored by Sen. Montigny, to combat human trafficking.
9:38 p.m.: The Senate votes unanimously to pass the final version of its FY18 budget and adjourns.