Spouses hold out hope for new work visa rules

Obama’s action could aid those languishing

By Jessica Meyers
Boston Globe

WASHINGTON — Geetha Thangasamy battles the loneliness with television. She scours the Internet to keep her skills as a software engineer fresh. And now, after 6½ years, her patience may pay off.

The Norwood woman is among thousands of foreign-born residents who cannot work in the United States because their partners were brought here on a special visa for highly skilled workers. Family members receive different visas that do not allow them to hold jobs.

Many spouses spend up to a decade in English classes and place their own careers on hold as the family inches through a backlogged process to become permanent residents.

All that appears ready to change. President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration supported a pending rule that allows some of these spouses a chance to work. Continue reading

Helping Veterans Connect to Companies

Coalition works to translate military skills to civilian jobs

By Jordan Graham
Boston Herald

It took 20-year Army veteran Major Bob Kinder nine months to find his job as managing director of G2 Capital Advisors in Boston. Photo credit: Jim Michaud

It took 20-year Army veteran Major Bob Kinder nine months to find his job as managing director of G2 Capital Advisors in Boston. Photo credit: Jim Michaud

A coalition of Bay State companies, advocates and veterans is aiming to help vets translate skills they already have to the offices of tech companies.

“The goal is to help employers connect more effectively with a growing number of veterans who are reentering the workforce,” said Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council and one of the leaders of New England Tech Vets. “No matter what a veteran did in the military, there is an equitable civilian skill.”

>> Read the Full Article from the Boston Herald

No clear direction from tech community on noncompetes

By Shirley Leung
Boston Globe

Fighting a $500 million tax on software services singularly united the tech community a year ago.

Supporting the governor’s proposal to eliminate noncompete agreements is an issue that divides it like no other.

There’s so much rancor in the ranks that the two major tech industry groups — Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and the Massachusetts High Technology Council — are staying neutral on the issue as it makes it way through the Legislature. Continue reading

Hanscom lands defense contract for surveillance system

Hanscom Air Force Base’s research operations won a little job security amid looming defense cuts after the facility landed a critical contract overseeing the rollout of the next generation of high-tech battlefield surveillance systems.

The Bedford base was chosen to lead the overhaul of the Air Force’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, with $73 million set aside for the first phase of establishing the new JSTARS platform, according to an announcement by members of the state’s congressional delegation.

US Representative Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, hailed the proposed funding, which was included in President Obama’s budget for next fiscal year.

“Most importantly it reflects the Air Force’s commitment to Hanscom’s mission,” Tsongas said.

The decision comes after an epic lobbying effort by top elected state and federal officials and business leaders to highlight Hanscom’s capabilities and spare the sprawling base from budget cuts.

Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts Defense Technology Initiative, which represents an array of local defense contractors and universities, cited a long campaign going back to Mitt Romney’s term as governor and the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Continue reading

School finance issues influence debate on charter cap lift

By Matt Murphy in the Dorchester Reporter
State House News Service

With the press on from charter school advocates to lift or eliminate the cap on charter enrollment in poorly performing school districts, the battle brewing over the issue in the Legislature appears to have as much, if not more, to do with the distribution of state education aid than the merits of charter schools.

The Race to the Top Coalition staged a rally at the State House on Wednesday, urging a House-Senate committee to recommend a bill filed by Rep. Russell Holmes, of Boston, and Sen. Barry Finegold, of Andover, to eliminate the cap in underperforming school districts and give schools on the cusp of being labeled underperforming more autonomy over hiring, curriculum and other functions.

Though a bill could surface anytime between now and the end of session in July, the Education Committee faces a March 19 deadline to report on bills pending before the committee. Holmes and Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport) were the only two lawmakers to attend a portion of the rally.

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Employers Give Senate’s Unemployment Insurance Bill Mixed Review

NOTE: The Massachusetts High Technology Council emailed out a statement criticizing the Senate’s bill mid-debate, while the AFL-CIO said ahead of the debate that it was in favor of the legislation.

By Andy Metzger

Aiming to stabilize business costs for the next few years and provide rate relief to employers with good employee retention records, the Senate passed an unemployment insurance reform bill Thursday that got mixed reviews from business leaders.

Sen. Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat and part-owner of Cape Air, said the bill is revenue-neutral, will provide four years of rate stability and better distinguishes between “who uses the system and who doesn’t” when determining the level of taxes paid by businesses to pay for jobless benefits.

“This bill will provide financial predictability, reward positive employment histories with lower costs and foster a healthy economy that supports the business community,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement. “These reforms strike a careful balance between providing businesses with a helping hand without taking that same hand away from the unemployed.”

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Gov. Deval Patrick uses last State of the State speech to push for new minimum wage

NOTE: House Speaker Robert DeLeo says a bill will likely get done this year, but he wants to make sure it’s coupled with changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system to reduce its burden on businesses.

By Jon Chesto
Boston Business Journal

Gov. Deval Patrick’s final State of the Commonwealth speech focused on his legacy — the ways in which he’d like the state to be a better place than it was when he first took office seven years ago. Chief among those changes, not surprisingly, is an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

Patrick certainly mentioned a number of other goals for his final year — more rail service, expanded all-day kindergarten, unemployment insurance reform. And he ticked off a laundry list of accomplishments.

But it was his brief mention of the minimum wage increase that seemed to draw the loudest and longest applause last night.  Continue reading

Senate Approves $177 Million Military Bond Bill

By Michael Norton
State House News Service

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill authorizing $177 million in state spending to support six state military bases and, according to supporters, put Massachusetts in a stronger position should the federal government close or realign military bases.

“All the states are looking at this in a very competitive way,” said Sen. Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) said before the Senate voted 37-2 for the so-called military bond bill.

Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) and Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) opposed the bill, noting that military funding is a federal responsibility and cautioning that capital spending on other state priorities would likely be at risk given the state’s borrowing limits.

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DeLeo Resists Call to Divorce Minimum Wage From Insurance System Changes

NOTE: In a Nov. 25 memo to lawmakers, Mass. High Tech Council President Chris Anderson said UI system reforms could address the perception among its members that is “less competitive” on cost issues than other states. The council found 67 percent of tech community survey respondents supported an increase in the minimum wage up to $10 an hour if UI system reforms were included as an “inseparable component” of the minimum wage proposal.

By Colleen Quinn and Michael Norton
State House News Service

Despite calls from prominent Democrats to separate the issues, House Speaker Robert DeLeo has not swayed from his plan to tie an increase in the minimum wage with unemployment insurance system reforms sought by businesses.

“I am still of that mind,” DeLeo told the News Service Tuesday after an event at the State House. “I have not changed my mind.”

Asked about a “sub-minimum wage” for teenagers and workers in training that would be lower than the regular minimum wage, DeLeo said he is considering that idea.

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Air Force Seeks Hanscom Tech Bids

By Scott Van Voorhis

Jim Burnett chatted away with Hanscom Air Force Base officials long after the event at Burlington’s Hilton Garden Inn had ended, touting the virtues of a compact new cooling system designed to keep military electronics functioning smoothly in the harshest environments on earth.

Burnett, government affairs chief for Marlborough-based Aspen Systems Inc., was one of an estimated 150 small-business owners and employees who turned out Wednesday morning to hear an unusual pitch by Air Force officials.

Hanscom is seeking to boost the number of technology companies that bid each year on the $2.8 billion in research and development contracts awarded each year through the Bedford military installation.

And in an effort to drum up interest, top Air Force officials laid out a range of potential contract opportunities, making their pitch in an event typically reserved for big companies.

“It is really a hotbed of technology talent here,” said Chuck Paone, public affairs director at Hanscom. “Small businesses tend to bring a lot of innovation to the table.”

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