HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A bill requiring carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to be installed in almost all Connecticut residences is moving through the state legislature.
Members of the General Assembly's Public Safety and Security voted 18-5 in favor of the bill Thursday. Two committee members were absent from the vote.
The bill, introduced in response to a Christmas Day fire in Stamford that killed a couple and their three granddaughters, now awaits legislative action in the state's House of Representatives.
Under current law, some single-family residences are not required to have smoke detectors. The proposed legislation would require nearly all state dwellings to have smoke detectors installed. It would also require all one and two-family homes to be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Additionally, the bill would extend this requirement to some occupied homes undergoing construction or renovation.
The measure would allow for battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are combined into a single device.
Homes would be required to have the devices installed as early as October if the bill becomes law.
Committee members said there are no current penalties under the bill, as it would be too difficult to enforce the requirement at the local level.
Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, the committee's co-chair, said that despite the difficulties in enforcing the measure, the legislation aims to increase public awareness and safety.
"(It's) somewhat of a significant step to bring this requirement on all residences," she said.
While bill supporters argue it would help prevent tragedies and increase safety for families, opponents say the bill could be stronger.
Rep. Janice Giegler, R-Danbury, a ranking member of the committee, said while she thinks the measure concerning construction is important, she is concerned that the bill presents an unenforceable mandate and needs more work.
Stamford officials have pressed state lawmakers to pass the bill following the fire that killed Lomer and Pauline Johnson and their granddaughters, 9-year-old Lily Badger and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger at a home on Long Island Sound, where they were spending the holiday.
Madonna Badger, the girls' mother and the Johnsons' daughter, managed to escape the blaze along with her friend Michael Borcina, a contractor who was renovating the $1.7 million Victorian home.
Officials have said an investigation found smoke detectors were not hooked up in the home. The fire is believed to have been caused by discarded fireplace embers.
Riverside Republican Sen. L. Scott Frantz said he and other Stamford lawmakers helped craft the bill. He said that he believes the bill will be successful in passing the legislature as even critics of big government can acknowledge that this sort of regulation makes sense.
"(They're) the cheapest insurance you can buy," he said of the detectors.
Stamford Rep. Gerald Fox III, a Democrat who also worked on the bill, said he is unsure of how it will fare this session. He said that as some legislators still have questions on the bill, he and others will work to provide answers and gain legislative support.
Some of the bill's proponents say its provisions requiring carbon monoxide detectors are related to reports of poisonings by the colorless, odorless gas that followed the October snowstorm. Many of the 10 deaths blamed on the storm were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Connecticut, carbon monoxide detectors are required in new residential buildings and all schools.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 25 states have laws that require carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential buildings.
A spokeswoman from the National Fire Protection Association said almost all states have laws requiring smoke detectors in residences.
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