20 fireworks-related bills on state Legislature docket

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo Nate Goore uses a QR code Dec. 26, 2020, at Pacific Fireworks in Kona while shopping to see what a fountain will look like at Pacific Fireworks. There are 20 bills up for consideration by the state Legislature this session, most of which look to increase regulations.

  • TODD

Several bills introduced in the state Legislature would increase regulations on fireworks, but others would make them easier to use.

In all, 20 bills pertaining to fireworks have been filed for consideration. Most of the bills merely increase or amend the fines related to fireworks violations, but others take a more ambitious approach to reducing their use.

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One bill, for example, would allow the state Department of Transportation to use canine units to inspect shipments to Hawaii harbors from places “known to manufacture, use or export aerial fireworks,” while another would reclassify certain fireworks violations as also being violations of the state air pollution control law.

“I think we get more firework-related complaints than anything else,” said state Rep. Chris Todd of Hilo, who co-introduced both of the above bills. “Fireworks can be dangerous, they can cause lung issues, they’re problems for people with pets, and we get complaints about them all through the year.”

Todd acknowledged that previous measures to regulate fireworks failed to pass in recent years, but said awareness of the issue increases every year, and new measures get more and more momentum.

Of course, Todd added, there is no guarantee that any bill, particularly a bill that would be expensive to enforce such as the canine inspection bill, will get passed in a year with an enormous pandemic-generated budgetary deficit.

“We don’t have the ability to enforce fireworks on the ground, and getting these inspections is going to cost money,” Todd said. “But I want people to know there are a lot of people here who are trying.”

One other bill would authorize counties to use fireworks license fees to offset the costs of conducting shipping container inspections, and another would establish a shipping container inspection program special fund, which would use shipping container import fees to conduct inspections.

But while most of the fireworks-related bills this session would increase fireworks regulations and fines — and one would prohibit their sale entirely, save for cultural purposes — a few would instead decrease regulations.

One bill would authorize the use of consumer fireworks, including aerial devices, at any time without a permit, while imposing a 25% tax on all pyrotechnic items.

“What we have to do is decide whether we even can enforce these things, and if we can’t, we need to find another way to reduce their use,” Todd said. “So, I don’t think I would call it a bad idea. But I’ve got pets, and I think we owe it to people to keep trying.”

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Another bill would reduce certain fireworks violations to only civil violations and a third would allow consumer fireworks and aerial devices to be used on New Year’s Eve and Independence Day.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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