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Gov. Patrick pleased lawmakers were able to pass major bills, will review before signing

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BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick said Friday that he's pleased lawmakers were able to finish work on several major pieces of legislation, but wants time to review them before deciding which to sign into law.

"We're going to take the time that's allowed by the constitution to actually do the evaluation," he said. "There's certainly a number of bills that we're very excited about."

Patrick made his comments Friday morning just hours after lawmakers wrapped up work on their two-year formal session that began in January 2013, blowing past a midnight Thursday deadline.

Before adjourning around 1 a.m., lawmakers took final votes on a slew of bills, including an overhaul of the state's gun laws that has been in the works following the 2012 mass school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Connecticut.

The bill would give 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, much like the discretion they have over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons. It would also stiffen penalties for some gun-based crimes and require Massachusetts join the National Instant Background Check System.

Patrick said he was "favorably disposed" to the bill even though it didn't include his proposal to limit gun sales to one per month.

Other bills given final approval would address the state's substance abuse problems — including requiring insurance carriers reimburse for substance abuse treatment services — and create a sales-tax-free holiday on the weekend of Aug. 16-17, a move popular with shoppers and many retailers.

Patrick said the suspension of the state's 6.25 percent sales tax for a weekend in August "has become one of those things you can't not do."

Another bill that won the backing of lawmakers would make changes to the state's domestic violence laws.

The measure would increase training programs on domestic violence, establish state and local domestic fatality review teams to examine the causes of domestic violence-related deaths and establish a fund to encourage practices aimed at preventing domestic violence and aiding victims.

The bill would also make it easier to purchase pepper sprays, provide up to 15 days of employment leave for victims, and increase privacy protections for victims by prohibiting information about domestic violence arrests from being included in daily police records and logs, which are public.

That last provision has been criticized by open records advocates and newspaper publishers.

Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association Executive Director Robert Ambrogi said keeping the information out of police logs could have the unintended consequence of shielding alleged perpetrators from public disclosure — including public officials or others in positions of trust or authority.

Bills that would increase oversight of public housing authorities, improve the state's water and wastewater infrastructure, and authorize the state to borrow up to $2.2 billion to spend on environmental projects also won final approval.

Another bill tightening reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including those made by political action committees known as super PACs, is also on the governor's desk.

"Conceptually, it's exactly right," Patrick said.

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

Patrick has 10 days to sign any bills that reach his desk.

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