State Senate Passes Sweeping Economic Development Bill Boosting Support for Small Businesses, Workers and Infrastructure Projects
Bill authorizes $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and training programs and $200 million in MassWorks infrastructure projects
Bill reforms non-compete laws to improve worker mobility and protects entrepreneurs from false claims of “patent trolls”
BOSTON — The State Senate voted to pass a sweeping economic development bill, authored by Senator Eric P. Lesser, on Wednesday, boosting support for Massachusetts startups and entrepreneurs, and authorizing targeted investments in infrastructure and worker retraining.
The bill, S. 2625 An Act relative to economic development in the Commonwealth, authorizes $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs and $200 million in bonds to the MassWorks Infrastructure Program that will support thousands of jobs in economic development and community revitalization projects.
The technical education grants will provide funding for new lab equipment in classrooms across the state, allowing for new programs in robotics and other high-tech vocational fields. The bill also invests in the state’s cultural economy, promoting the arts and tourism industries.
“Far too many families are struggling to make ends meet, working longer hours while wages remain the same. This bill is designed to rebalance the scale to ensure our economy works for everyone and fosters growth in every corner of our Commonwealth. Through targeted infrastructure development grants, small business loans and job training programs for unemployed workers, we can revitalize our cities and towns and give our workers a head start in the competition for the jobs of the future,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser, Senate Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and lead sponsor of the bill.
The bill also reforms the state’s non-compete laws, establishing conditions on the enforcement of noncompetition agreements that will improve worker mobility and free employees to pursue their careers. It also includes new protections for entrepreneurs by enforcing a ban on making bad faith assertions of patent infringement, a practice known as “patent trolling.” Such claims often entangle new small businesses in costly lawsuits that hamper the companies’ productivity and sap their early seed-stage funds.
“By reforming our non-compete laws, and enforcing a ban on patent trolling, we are also empowering workers and protecting entrepreneurs in Massachusetts — two necessary measures if we hope to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs in the global economy,” Sen. Lesser added.
Sen. Lesser served as the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, along with his House counterpart, Rep. Joseph F. Wagner of Chicopee.
“This bill enacts strong worker’s and consumer protections that are essential in today’s modern economy,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “Additionally, this legislation will support economic growth across the Commonwealth and benefits workers and their families for generations to come.”
"I am proud of the Senate's commitment to nurturing our economy. With this legislation, Massachusetts is taking steps to maintain our economic strength, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and allow for more people to participate in and benefit from our dynamic economy,” said Sen. Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
“This legislation encompasses a number of important efforts tailored to keep our economy moving forward so that employees, employers, families, and communities can prosper,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “State government must continue to foster an environment conducive to the development of creating jobs and generating revenue for spending priorities through increased economic growth rather than increasing taxes.”
"This bill is not just about the growth of our economy, but about the livelihood of our residents and the strength of our communities. It supports programs like MassWorks to fund local development, Workforce Skills Capital Grants for vocational training, and the Seaport Economic Council to help coastal communities invest in a strong maritime economy. I am proud to support it and grateful to Senator Lesser and Chairwoman Spilka for their leadership,” said Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy), who serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, which reviews all bills issuing bonding authorizations.
The bill will now be negotiated with a version passed by the State House of Representatives before going to the Governor’s desk.