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NIAGARA NEWS BRIEFS

>Texting-while-driving ban is OK'd for public hearing

NORTH TONAWANDA -- City lawmakers took a second step toward imposing a ban on texting while driving, sending the ordinance for a public hearing, during a special Common Council session Tuesday night.

The law, which prohibits drivers from composing, reading or sending a text message while behind the wheel, becomes null and void Nov. 1, when a weaker state law goes into effect. A fine of up to $150 could be levied for a violation. From the time the law goes into effect until Nov. 1, the city's law would allow police to stop a driver believed to be texting without committing another offense.

The law is similar to one passed by the Niagara County Legislature, which will go into effect next month.

The state law permits secondary enforcement, meaning the driver must be found in violation of another law to be ticketed for violating the texting ban.

The Council approved the law by a 4-0 vote. Alderman-at-Large Brett M. Sommer was absent from the meeting.

Mayor Lawrence V. Soos' office must hold a public hearing on the law before it becomes effective. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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>First Community Night will be held Thursday

LOCKPORT -- The city and Lockport's block clubs will host the first Lockport Community Night from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Waterman and Genesee streets.

The purpose of the event is to create awareness and provide information about the different types of programs and services offered by the many community service, educational and outreach organizations located in the Lockport area, according to Jack L. Smith Jr., president of the United Neighborhood Watch Group.

Food, entertainment and children's activities are on tap, Smith said.

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>Colgan to begin talks with new pilots union

WASHINGTON -- Colgan Air, which operated the Continental Connection plane that crashed in Clarence Center in February, killing 50, will begin negotiations with its new union today, the Air Line Pilots Association announced Tuesday.

Pilots at Colgan voted last December to join ALPA, the world's largest pilots union.

"The recent scrutiny of our industry and our airline has highlighted a number of issues, such as pilot compensation, pilot scheduling and the application of our sick leave policy, that are major concerns for our pilots," said Capt. Mark Segaloff, chairman of the union's Executive Council at Colgan.

The union hopes to address those issues at the bargaining table, Segaloff said.

"Our goal in this first contract is to find ways to help our airline grow and maintain its profitability, while ensuring that our pilots are treated like the professionals we are and compensated as such," Segaloff added.

Pilot fatigue has emerged as one of the key issues in the federal investigation of the February crash, and The Buffalo News reported earlier this month that pilots at Colgan felt pressured to fly even when they were sick or fatigued.

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