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Elsewhere Briefs

 


Conn. governor set to

sign gun control law

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who four months ago broke the news to shocked parents that their children had been slaughtered in a Connecticut elementary school, was expected to sign into law Thursday sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines similar to the ones used by the gunman.

Malloy’s office said he would sign the bill at a state Capitol ceremony at noon, only hours after the General Assembly approved the measure early Thursday morning to give the state some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

In the hours after the shooting Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as anxious family members gathered inside a firehouse and waited for news, Malloy told them their loved ones were not coming home. He said later that he didn’t think it was right for the families to wait for the victims — 20 first-graders and six educators — to be formally identified.

“I made the decision that — to have that go on any longer — was wrong,” he said.

Now, Connecticut will join states including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts in having the country’s strongest gun control laws, said Brian Malte, director of mobilization for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington.

“This would put Connecticut right at the top or near the top of the states with the strongest gun laws,” Malte said.

The legislation adds more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban and creates what officials have called the nation’s first dangerous weapon offender registry as well as eligibility rules for buying ammunition. Some parts of the bill would take effect immediately after Malloy’s signature, including background checks for all firearms sales.

Following a total of more than 13 hours of respectful and at times somber debate, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted in favor of the 139-page bill crafted by leaders from both major parties in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. Both were bipartisan votes.

“I pray today’s bill — the most far-reaching gun safety legislation in the country — will prevent other families from ever experiencing the dreadful loss that the 26 Sandy Hook families have felt,” said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz.

Sandy criticism prompts change in storm warnings

MIAMI (AP) — The National Hurricane Center is changing the way it issues hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings after being criticized over its handling of Superstorm Sandy.

During Sandy, forecasters at the center in Miami stopped issuing advisories and hurricane warnings because the storm lost its tropical characteristics and mutated into a hybrid storm as it merged with two cold-weather systems. Some people said that caused Northeast residents to underestimate Sandy’s danger when it hit the New Jersey on Oct. 29.

Under the new policy announced Thursday, the National Hurricane Center says it will continue to issue advisories and warnings even when storms technically are no longer hurricanes or tropical storms.

The hurricane center attributed 72 deaths in the U.S. to Sandy, but some estimates were higher.

Neighbors may

get to weigh in on

Colo. pot shops

DENVER (AP) — Future marijuana shops in Colorado could face more neighborhood reaction before opening their doors. That’s under a looming legislative recommendation to address one of the biggest complaints with current medical marijuana shops — that neighbors don’t always know they’re coming.

The head of a House-Senate pot committee announced Thursday that the panel would propose a requirement that local governments hold hearings to gauge neighborhood reaction before granting licenses for marijuana businesses.

The proposal would be similar to requirements for “needs and desires” hearings for liquor licenses.

The legislative pot committee planned to work through the weekend to finish proposals on how marijuana should be grown, taxed and sold. The drug will be regulated by the Department of Revenue, which sent representatives Thursday to assure lawmakers they’re ready for the job.

Report praises response to deadly Colo. wildfire

DENVER (AP) — A review of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history released Wednesday found much to praise and few problems in the way Colorado Springs agencies responded.

Investigators say the June 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire on the northwest side of Colorado Springs was human-caused, but they still have been unable to determine whether it was intentional or accidental.

The fire destroyed 347 houses and charred 28.5 square miles. It prompted evacuations of nearly 29,000 people, according to the review by the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

The report examined only how city agencies responded. It concluded that first responders reacted in an “incredibly professional and heroic manner.”

In one day, police and firefighters evacuated 26,000 people and saved 82 percent of the homes in the area directly affected by the fast-moving fire, the report said.

The report praised the planning and training by city personnel and said agencies cooperated well.

It said the city needs better ways to quickly notify other agencies when fire managers make key decisions, and that more personnel should be trained in logistics to support emergency responders.

Officials previously said 346 houses were destroyed, but the report raised that by one. It is the highest total of homes ruined by a Colorado wildfire.

The fire triggered insurance claims of $353 million, also the highest total in any Colorado wildfire, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. Carole Walker, director of the association, said Wednesday that number will rise after a one-year revision expected in June.

Measured by insurance claims, the costliest catastrophe in Colorado history remains a 1990 hailstorm in the Denver area. It caused $1.1 billion in damage when the figures are adjusted for inflation, the association said.

Homeowner insurance premiums in Colorado have risen about 10 percent over the past year compared with about 6 percent nationally, but the risk of hailstorms was a bigger factor in the increase than wildfires, Walker said.

Authorities announced in September the Waldo Canyon Fire was human-caused. The investigation remains open and a reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information about the identity of the person who caused it.

Authorities said they pinpointed the spot where the fire started, but they have not released the location, saying it is part of the investigation.

Separately, Larimer County authorities said Wednesday that a resident accidentally started a 2-square-mile wildfire last month, and no criminal charges will be filed. Prosecutors said the resident was working on an electric fence on March 15 when a spark ignited dried grass. No homes were reported damaged.

 

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