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MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE

Legislature holds final formal meeting of year

BOSTON (AP) - It could be a long day for state legislators as they rush to complete work on several proposed new laws.

Today marks the end of formal meetings in the two-year legislative session that began in January 2013.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on compromise versions of several bills, including one that calls for some major changes in the state's gun laws.

Other measures awaiting final votes include one that would tighten the state's domestic violence laws, and a bill that seeks to create new economic opportunities in older urban areas of the state.

The Legislature can continue to meet on an informal basis through the remainder of the year, but only to consider routine or non-controversial bills.

UNNEEDED BOARDS

Report: Many state boards should be eliminated

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts has dozens of state boards, commissions and task forces that no longer meet or file reports, or have simply become irrelevant.

That's according to a report issued by a Senate committee that reviewed nearly 400 state entities and offered a serious of recommendations to fix the problems.

The panel found that many of boards and commissions that have been created over the years continue to exist, but many do not meet. In fact, some appear to have never met at all.

Many boards also have empty seats because members have not been appointed or reappointed.

The Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee called on the state to identify and dissolve unnecessary panels, and take steps to find people qualified to serve on those that still have a useful purpose.

MBTA-CRIME

MBTA reports overall drop in crime so far in 2014

BOSTON (AP) - The MBTA is reporting a drop in the overall rate of serious crime during the first six months of the year, though the number of aggravated assaults on the Boston-area transit system was higher than in the same period a year ago.

According to crime statistics released by transit police, 384 serious crimes were committed between Jan. 1 and June 30, compared to 395 over the first six months of 2013.

While the number of simple assaults has fallen by 22 percent, there was a 38 percent jump in aggravated assaults in which some type of weapon was used.

MBTA police chief Paul MacMillan tells The Boston Globe there is no obvious explanation for the increase.

The T says robberies, including thefts of smartphones, were down 28 percent from a year ago.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR-BAKER

GOP's Baker to unveil plan to fight drug addiction

BOSTON (AP) - Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker is unveiling what he's calling a comprehensive approach to tackling the drug addiction crisis in Massachusetts.

Baker said he would require hospitals and first responders to report overdoses directly to the Department of Public Health and mandate doctors consult the state's Prescription Monitoring Program before writing or renewing a prescription on an annual basis.

Baker said the state should work with schools to develop age-appropriate programs to help children understand the physical, social and economic consequences of addiction. He said the state should also ensure there are suitable in-patient facilities for teenagers and young adults fighting addiction.

Baker said he would also push for alternatives to incarceration, including treatment for non-violent offenders.

Baker planned to announce the proposal Thursday in the city's South Boston neighborhood.

REPUBLICANS CHAIRMAN

GOP chairman to address black journalists

BOSTON (AP) - Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (ryns PREE'-bus) will address black journalists in Boston.

Priebus, who has served as party chairman since 2011, is expected to deliver remarks and be interviewed Thursday morning as part of the National Association of Black Journalists' annual convention.

Michaela Pereira, of CNN, and Kelly Wright, of FOX News, are conducting the interview.

Priebus was largely credited with boosting fundraising and erasing the GOP's debt, which approached $23 million under former chairman Michael Steele.

Prior to his role as national party chairman, Priebus served as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party where his tenure included the 2010 election in which the state GOP won the governor's office, recaptured the state legislature and claimed major congressional wins.

MASSACHUSETTS COURT-HINES

New justice to join Massachusetts high court

BOSTON (AP) - Governor Deval Patrick is set to administer the oath of office to the newest member of the state's highest court.

Geraldine Hines will be the first black woman to serve on the seven-member Supreme Judicial Court. She's scheduled to be sworn-in as an associate justice during a ceremony on Thursday.

Hines was appointed to the Superior Court by the late Governor Paul Cellucci in 2001, and was named by Patrick to serve on the state appeals court last year.

Earlier this month, the governor's council unanimously approved Hines' nomination to the SJC. She fills the vacancy left when Ralph Gants was elevated from associate justice to chief justice of the court, replacing Roderick Ireland who retired after 17 years on the high court, the last four as chief justice.

ASH BORER

Invasive beetle found in Boston

BOSTON (AP) - An invasive and destructive beetle has been found at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.

State officials say it's the first emerald ash borer to be detected in Suffolk County.

The small, green beetle is native to Asia and was first discovered in North America more than a decade ago. It feeds on ash trees, often killing the trees within three to five years.

The emerald ash borer was previously detected in Berkshire and Essex Counties.

Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jack Murray said the beetles represent a serious threat to ash trees and action has been taken to contain them.

Those steps include a ban on bringing firewood into state parks and forests and placing quarantines in areas where the ash borer has already been discovered.

CHURCH VANDALIZED

Pastor angry after church vandalized

(Information in the following story is from: The (Quincy, Mass.) Patriot Ledger, http://www.patriotledger.com )

QUINCY, Mass. (AP) - Police are asking for the public's help as they try to find out who vandalized a Quincy church.

The Patriot Ledger reports a custodian at the Community United Methodist Church discovered the damage on Wednesday, which included two stained-glass windows smashed in by rocks. A gymnasium and youth center in the building was also ransacked.

The Rev. Susan Jarek-Glidden calls the damage "infuriating," though she was at least grateful that no one was injured and no fires were set during the vandalism spree.

Jarek-Glidden said she has no idea why anyone would target the church, and plans to devote her Sunday sermon to the consequences of the act.

In December, someone broke into the church and stole a laptop computer and cash donations.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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