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Toledo Legal News - News Lawmakers want to add safety fee to fireworks purchases

 

Since the country’s bicentennial, Americans’ consumption of fireworks has skyrocketed 777 percent to a hefty 254.4 million pounds in 2017, a state lawmaker told committee members in the Ohio House of Representatives last week.

For a large portion of that four-decade stretch, Ohio’s fireworks laws have remained largely unchanged, prompting a bipartisan duo in the House to propose legislation updating the section of state law.

Republican Rep. Brian Baldridge of Winchester, a joint sponsor of House Bill 172, said the state’s prohibition of the use of consumer-grade 1.4G fireworks goes largely ignored each year.

Fellow joint sponsor of the bill, Rep. Michael O’Brien, a Warren Democrat, detailed another provision of current law, which requires consumer-grade fireworks bought in the state to be transported out of state within 48 hours of purchase.

“We recognize there are important safety measures which must be taken when using fireworks,” O’Brien said. “However, current law and policy does not provide the state with enough resources to educate Ohioans on proper safety practices. … Working with the state fire marshal’s office and local officials can make our state safer, while allowing our citizens to express their national pride in a safe and responsible manner.”

Citing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2017 Fireworks Annual Report, the lawmakers said there are an average 9,900 injuries per year since 1976, despite the steep increase in fireworks consumption.

Use of illegal, “homemade” fireworks and improper use of otherwise legal fireworks historically has been a consistent factor in fireworks-related injuries.

“One section of this bill establishes the Ohio Fire Code Rule Recommendation Committee,” O’Brien continued, adding the committee would include representatives of interested parties, such as Prevent Blindness Ohio, the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild and the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in addition to the state fire marshal and local fire chiefs. “The purpose of this committee is to advise the state fire marshal regarding rulemaking, including those surrounding firework usage, sale, manufacturing licensing, and wholesaler licensing.”

The bill also would enact a 4 percent firework safety fee on the gross sale of all fireworks in the state.

“Those fees are credited to firefighter training programs and to the State Fire Marshal’s regulation and enforcement of the fireworks industry,” Baldrige said.

The fire marshal’s office would be required to design a firework safety pamphlet, the lawmakers continued.

“This pamphlet would be distributed by retailers to the consumers at the point of sale and educate the consumer on proper safety precautions,” O’Brien said. “With increased enforcement and regulation, the fire marshal’s office will be able to protect consumers from fraudulent retailers and ensure all fireworks sold in the state meet high standards.”

The bill also would require all firework retailers to have safety glasses available for purchase at the point of sale.

“This will be a gentle reminder to consumers on the importance of wearing safety glasses when using fireworks,” O’Brien added.

HB 172 would respect the right of local municipalities to restrict and/or ban the use of fireworks in their communities, the duo said.

An individual may be convicted for disturbance of the peace, use of fireworks while in possession of, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances, or use of fireworks on unauthorized property, according to another provision of the law.”

“Because safety should rightfully be a consideration, it is important to note that as states across the country have loosened their firework laws, there has not be a statistically significant increase in firework related injuries,” Baldridge concluded.

Six fellow lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors of the bill, which awaits further committee action.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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Lawmakers want to add safety fee to fireworks purchases

Since the country’s bicentennial, Americans’ consumption of fireworks has skyrocketed 777 percent to a hefty 254.4 million pounds in 2017, a state lawmaker told committee members in the Ohio House of Representatives last week.