COLUMBUS — With the Fourth of July less than two months away, Ohioans wishing to light fireworks in their backyards may be granted that ability depending on votes from the statehouse.
Current state law permits the purchase, but not the use of consumer-grade fireworks for residents 18 and older within the state. Instead, they must be transported out of the state within 48 hours following the purchase.
Now action from Scioto County’s Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester and Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, in two separate but similar pieces of legislation could bring change.
Johnson is joined with Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, with Senate Bill 113 as the March-introduced legislation’s sponsors. Baldridge and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, are House Bill 172’s primary sponsors that passed in a 73-24 vote Thursday with bipartisan support.
“Every year, the Fourth of July is marked with family picnics and parades as a way to celebrate our nation’s birthday and the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Baldridge in a press release, whose 90th District includes Scioto and Adams counties. “Even with all of this, each and every year brings disappointment when Ohio’s citizens cannot legally and honestly discharge fireworks as a means of celebrating with family, friends and neighbors.”
In addition to permitting firework use, both SB 113 and HB 172 calls for a 4% Firework Safety Fee on the gross sale of fireworks and establishes the Ohio Fire Code Rule Recommendation Committee to advise in rule-making regarding fireworks.
According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, seven-eighths of the fee would support firefighter training programs and the remaining eighth would cover the State Fire Marshal’s expenses in administering the law.
The committee would be composed of the following parts:
- State Fire Marshal
- Four local fire chiefs
- One local police chief
- Five members of the Ohio State Pyrotechnics Association
- One member of Prevent Blindness Ohio
- One member of the Ohio Optometric Association
- One member of the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild
- One representative of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- One member of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
PBO and several other organizations and individuals however have come out against the legislation, citing safety concerns as their primary reasons. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12,900 people were involved firework-related injuries in 2017 and eight fatalities were recorded.
“Despite industry warnings and public service announcements, many consumers believe that if something is legalized, it is inherently safe. This is the core of our concern with HB 172,” reads the written testimony from PBO President & CEO Sherill K. Williams. “We have seen injuries increase in other states once discharge has been legalized.”
Williams and U.S. Air Force veteran Nichole Coleman also noted how the loud noises from fireworks can present challenges for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress.
“Veterans love this country and enjoy celebrating it as much as anyone, but as with all revelry, there is a point when it becomes unnecessarily reckless,” reads testimony from Coleman, former president of the Ohio State Association of County Veterans Service Officers who also deals with PTSD. “(W)hile I can plan to be home or somewhere else when I know the city puts on a fireworks show, I can’t anticipate neighbors setting them off.”
Baldridge noted these sentiments during the initial House Commerce and Labor Committee session, saying the bill would hopefully resolve the number of injuries through homemade fireworks. One such attempt would come from a provision in his bill which orders the Fire Marshal Office to craft a pamphlet detailing proper precautions to share with buyers.
“Working with the State Fire Marshal’s office and local offices can make our state safer while allowing Ohioans to express their national pride and joy in a safe and responsible manner,” he said.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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