Ohio may legalize fireworks for private home use

Roman candles, firecrackers, bottle rockets and other fireworks could be going off in your neighborhood 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if pending legislation becomes law.

State representatives are backing a bill to dramatically change Ohioans access to consumer-grade fireworks, starting July 1, 2020.

House Bill 226, sponsored by state Reps. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and Martin Sweeney, D-Cleveland, would:

* allow Ohioans to buy, possess and use 1.4G fireworks on their own property or others’ property with permission;

* require sellers to give safety pamphlets to buyers

* impose a 4 percent fee on top of sales taxes to fund firefighter training and fireworks regulation;

* set up a 13-member study committee to consider alternative regulations;

* extends the a long-standing moratorium on licenses to manufacture and sell fireworks to 2020; and

* allow counties, cities and some townships to either ban fireworks or restrict the times and dates they may be used.

If it passes in its current form, Ohio may have the most liberal law governing consumer use of fireworks, said Sherry Williams, executive director of Prevent Blindness Ohio, which opposes the bill. “We know there is no safe way to use an unsafe product,” she said. “Setting off explosives is a dangerous activity that serves no purpose.”

She added that “Fifty percent of the injuries (from fireworks) are to people who are minding their own business.”

Seitz told his fellow lawmakers, “I do know fireworks are a lot safer now than they were 10 to 12 years ago.”

Danial Peart, government affairs director for Youngstown-based Phantom Fireworks, Inc., said if the study committee doesn’t recommend alternative regulations, starting in 2020, “Ohioans would finally be able to use fireworks safely and responsibly” and local governments could set restrictions.

Related: Ohioans no longer have to promise to take fireworks out of state

The bill is the latest attempt to revamp Ohio’s fireworks law. In the closing days of the legislative session in 2014, a measure similar to House Bill 226 fizzled. Williams, who has led Prevent Blindness Ohio for 31 years, said House Bill 226 marks the fifth attempt by state legislators to legalize consumer fireworks since 1996.

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. Buyers are required to take purchased fireworks out of state within 48 hours, though they are no longer required to sign a form promising to do so.

The pending bill would extend mortoriums on Ohio issuing new licenses and on allowing current licensees to move locations. Peart said Phantom would like to open more stores and move some shops, which were initially located 30 years ago.

The Ohio Assocation of Professional Firefighters said they like the earmark for firefighter training but need to study the plan to legalize consumer fireworks. “We can all agree that the current law has hardly been effective in curbing the discharge of consumer grade fireworks,” the association said.


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