Fireworks Expansion Bill Advances in House

Despite opposition from the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association and the director of the Regions Hospital Burn Unit, the bill was passed by a House committee.
(Published Mon Mar 14 00:00:00 CDT 2016)

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A bill that would expand the definition of consumer fireworks in Minnesota to include aerial and audible fireworks cleared its first committee in the House on March 10. The measure, HF 1089 (Rep. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City), is backed by the fireworks industry.

It passed on a voice vote out of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee and was referred to the Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. The next House hearing will be March 15 in the Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee.

The Senate companion, SF 465 (Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake), has not been scheduled for a hearing. The measure is similar, but not identical, to legislation that was vetoed in 2012 by Gov. Dayton.

League opposes bill
The League of Minnesota Cities has long opposed fireworks expansion legislation and raised the following objections in a Feb. 24 letter to legislators:

  • The League is opposed to any expansion of the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Minnesota because the products are dangerous.
  • Fireworks that would be allowed under this bill will impact neighborhoods and communities. Aerial fireworks travel away from the property of the person who lights them and onto other properties. Likewise, noise travels.
  • The bill creates an unfunded mandate. It will increase fire calls, property damage, and nuisance complaints.
  • The increased use of fireworks will create conflicts between neighbors over noise, debris, and property damage. Cities will be left trying to help people resolve these disputes and will have more difficulty if the offending fireworks are legal.

One significant change from the bill that advanced in 2012 is that the legislation does allow local units of government by ordinance to prevent the sale and use of aerial and audible devices. Although this provision provides more local control than the previous iteration, it does not alleviate concerns about potential increased availability of the products, which will lead to noise and nuisance complaints.

Additional measures
Other provisions in the bill include the following:

  • Maintains the requirements in current law that “legal fireworks” may not be used on public property or purchased by individuals younger than 18 years of age, and that people selling legal items must verify the purchaser’s age by photographic identification.
  • Retains the cap of $350 on the annual license fee that local units of government may charge to retail sellers of novelties and aerial and audible devices. (The maximum fee for retailers of sparkling devices is $100.) Authorizes local governments to charge a separate $100 fee for each additional retail location a licensee operates.
  • Requires the local fire marshal to grant or deny a license application within seven days of receipt. Prohibits local units of government from imposing other fees on the retail or wholesale sale of novelties and aerial and audible devices.
  • Pre-empts local regulation of sparkling devices and novelties.
  • Provides that counties have the same authority as statutory cities to regulate the use of aerial and audible devices, display fireworks, sparkling devices, and novelties.
  • Restricts the use of aerial and audible devices to between June 1 and July 10.

City officials with concerns about this legislation are encouraged to contact their legislators and request they vote against the bill.

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