by Todd DeFeo
Ohio lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize the purchase and use of fireworks in the state.
House Bill 253 would create the Ohio Fire Code Rule Recommendation Committee, composed of officials at the local and state level to advise the state fire marshal on rules around the use, sale and manufacture of fireworks.
Current law requires consumers who purchase fireworks in Ohio to transport them out of the state within 48 hours of purchase. It also bans anyone from using fireworks – known as 1.4G fireworks – in the Buckeye State.
“Every year, we see news reports across the state of injuries to children and damage to property resulting from fireworks discharge,” Bill Cotton, who spoke on behalf of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told members of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, which held its third hearing on the legislation.
“Despite a statewide ban on consumer discharge, we are still seeing the negative effects of consumer fireworks usage,” Cotton added. “However, this is not a justification for repealing the current prohibition on [consumer fireworks]. Fireworks are inherently dangerous, and we should consider what kind of statement we will make as a state by repealing the consumer fireworks ban.”
The bill, sponsored by state Reps. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, and Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, would impose a 4 percent fee on purchases of 1.4G consumer fireworks starting June 1. It is not clear how much revenue the state might see from the fee, according to a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) review of the bill.
Seven-eighths of the revenue collected would support firefighter training programs, while the remainder would help the state fire marshal administer the law. The state fire marshal likely would need to hire three fire safety inspectors and an assistant fire chief.
The bill also seeks to establish a fireworks retailer license, which would be capped at $25 and would have to be renewed annually. More than 2,000 locations could be licensed, potentially bringing in $50,000 in annual fees, according to the LSC review.
“Passage of this legislation will certainly lead to an increase in fireworks discharge, property damage and injury to both individuals igniting the fireworks and … individuals minding their own business,” Sherill Williams, president & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, said in prepared testimony to lawmakers.
During a previous hearing, representatives of the retailers and organizations associated with the fireworks industry, including Phantom Fireworks and TNT Fireworks, spoke in favor of the proposal.
“I have listened to much deliberation over the recent years in hearings to legalize consumer discharge of backyard fireworks,” Joe Posey, a retired first responder, told lawmakers in prepared testimony. “For me, a poor case has been made about patriotism or freedom or free enterprise.
“Especially of concern is the economic impact,” Posey added. “While the fireworks industry stands to gain additional sales, what about the economic impact on those that must deal with the fallout of fireworks injury incidents such as first responders, law enforcement, and hospitals, and of course innocent bystanders?”
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Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square.