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    New England news in brief

    Boston

    Contraception bill passes Senate

    A bill that supporters say will protect birth control coverage for women is one step closer to becoming law in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed the bill, which includes a provision requiring health insurers to continue offering coverage — without copayments — for prescription contraceptives regardless of changes in federal policy or any future repeal of the Affordable Care Act. President Trump issued an executive order last month that would allow employers to opt out of providing birth control coverage by claiming religious or moral objections.The bill also mandates coverage for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives without a doctor’s prescription. (AP)

    Norfolk

    King Phillip students cited for hate crime

    Several students at King Phillip Regional high School are being disciplined for harassing a classmate and the classmate’s mother in an incident the school’s superintendent described as a “hate crime.” The students directed “inappropriate and racist slurs” at the victim, who was their sports teammate, King Philip Regional School District Superintendent Elizabeth Zielinski said in a statement posted to the school’s website.The students obtained the mother’s phone number and shared it with other students, she said. Several called the number repeatedly and made “inappropriate sexual comments.” The actions of these students can be considered a hate crime,” she said. The district disciplined the students by issuing school suspensions and game suspensions, and also notified local and State Police, Zielinski said. State Police spokesman Dave Procopio said he had no information on the event.

    Amherst

    Meningitis diagnosis for 2 UMass students

    Officials at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have issued a warning to the community after two students were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. One student was diagnosed with a variant of the disease on Oct. 24, and a second was diagnosed this past weekend. Both students are in stable condition and health workers are contacting people who may have been in touch with them. UMass is offering the vaccination by appointment. (AP)

    Montpelier

    Ice rink banned from State House lawn

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    Officials in Vermont’s capital are rejecting a request to keep a popular ice rink on the front lawn of the State House, saying it lacks the curb appeal suitable for the property. Montpelier officials say wooden fencing that framed the rink last year was out of place next to the State House, prompting the denial this year. Assistant City Manager Sue Allen says building commission members thought the fencing was unattractive and ‘‘looked like a horse stable.’’ (AP)

    Brewer, Maine

    Hospital group sues over drug payment cuts

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    Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems is joining a lawsuit to try to stop the US government from implementing drug payment cutbacks it says would be dangerous for low-income patients. The hospital system says its lawsuit seeks to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from reducing payments for medications purchased at a discount. (AP)