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Mass. Senate approves bill on unemployment aid

The state Senate approved a bill Thursday to make changes in Massachusetts’ unemployment insurance system that supporters say would lower costs for businesses.

The measure, passed 33 to 4, would continue a freeze on insurance rates through 2017, introduce an updated rating table, and expand the exemption for seasonal businesses to 20 weeks from 16.

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Senate President Therese Murray said the bill will provide financial predictability, reward positive employment histories with lower costs, and foster a healthy economy.

But Mass. High Technology Council president Chris Anderson said the Senate missed an ‘‘opportunity to enact meaningful reforms.’’

Business groups suggest lowering the duration of unemployment benefits from 30 weeks to 26 weeks and requiring workers to be employed for at least 20 weeks, up from the current 15 weeks, before being eligible for benefits.

The bill goes to the House.

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