Handful Of Bills Await Gov. Patrick's Signature

Gov. Deval Patrick has a handful of bills on his desk awaiting his signature, including a proposed overhaul of the state's gun laws.

The bill would give Massachusetts police chiefs the right to go to court to try to deny firearms identification cards needed to buy rifles or shotguns to individuals they feel are unsuitable.

The bill makes other changes to state gun laws, including creating a Web-based portal within the state Executive Office of Public Safety to allow real-time background checks in private gun sales, stiffening penalties for some gun-based crimes and calling for the creation of a firearms trafficking unit within the state police.

The bill also mandates that Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System, which requires the state to transmit information about substance abuse or mental health commitments to a federal database used by police to review firearms applications.

The legislation also requires that schools have access to two-way communication devices with police and fire departments and mandates that school districts provide two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training to school personnel every three years.

The bill would also require police chiefs to give written reasons for any applications they choose to deny. Their decisions would have to be based on public safety and could be appealed.

Although the bill doesn't include Patrick's proposal to limit gun purchases to one per month per individual, he is expected to sign it

Patrick has until Thursday to take action on it.

Another bill awaiting Patrick's signature is a proposal that would limit the amount of time that could pass before people who have lost homes to foreclosure could seek to regain the title. Critics say the bill will disproportionately harm minority communities.

An additional bill on Patrick's desk is a $1.9 billion, four-year environmental bond bill.

Among the dozens of spending projects in the bill is $100 million for the dredging of Boston and New Bedford harbors and another $100 million for the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the design, construction and preservation of forests, parks, harbor islands and other recreational facilities.

Patrick has already signed a number of high-profile bills into law, including a new substance abuse law that requires insurers to reimburse patients for addiction treatment from licensed counselors and removes prior-authorization requirements for outpatient substance abuse treatment

The law requires chief medical examiners to report overdose deaths to the state Health Department and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making it easier for public health agencies to identify ways to reduce the risk of additional overdoses.

In March, Patrick declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts in response to what he called the state's growing epidemic of heroin overdoses and opioid addiction.

This past week, Patrick signed into law a bill designed to help modernize the operations and financial management of local housing authorities while encouraging the authorities to find ways to improve the lives of tenants.

Another bill signed this week by Patrick authorizes the state to borrow money to bring high-speed Internet to schools and underserved parts of the state, including a $38 million pilot grant program for school connectivity and $50 million for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.


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