Our Statehouse reporter Laura Bischoff has been busy in recent weeks covering all the legislation being passed in the lame duck legislature. One interesting issue that came out of committee today would allow Ohioans to legally shoot off the fireworks they buy in the state. Here's her report:
Despite objections from firefighters and safety advocates, an Ohio Senate committee on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill that would allow adults to set off firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and other consumer fireworks.
Daniel Peart, showroom operations director for Phantom Fireworks in Youngstown, said it’s time Ohio updated its fireworks laws that allow purchasing fireworks only if customers swear they won’t set them off in Ohio and will take them out of state within 48 hours.
“Every year we stand in our consumer fireworks facilities in the state….and they ask us the same question: ‘How can you sell to Ohio residents when they can’t use them?’ And we don’t have that answer,” Peart said. Currently, illegal possession or discharge of fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for first offenses. Senate Bill 386 eliminates what has long been called the ‘Liar’s Law’ and legalizes use by the general public of consumer grade fireworks.
Patricia Holsinger of South Point spoke out against the bill, telling lawmakers the horrifying story of how her elderly parents died in a house fire caused by an illegal firework that landed on their roof in July 2014.
“It was the worst night of my life,” she said. She called the bill “crazy because once those fireworks are lit they have no direction, you don’t know which path they’re going to take and it may be something enjoyable for your family but it may end up it someone else’s yard or on someone else’s roof that can’t fight the fire themselves.”
Also opposing the bill is Prevent Blindness, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, the Ohio Ophthalmological Society, Ohio Fire Officials Association and pediatricians. Opponents contend that there is no safe way to set off consumer fireworks.
The bill also extends a long-standing moratorium on licenses to manufacture and sell fireworks to 2018. Bruce Blom of the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild said he supports the bill but opposes the moratorium, which he says locks up the market for a state-approved oligarchy.
The bill is expected to receive a Senate floor vote Tuesday.