Bill could legalize more at-home fireworks
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota holiday revelers eager for a bigger bang and brighter flash could buy and set off a wider array of consumer fireworks if a bill moving through the Legislature stays on course.
The House planned to vote as early as Tuesday on legislation that would legalize more at-home fireworks. It would allow aerial fireworks and those with more oomph than the sparklers, glow worms and low-power noisemakers currently permitted.
Backers argue that people are using them anyway, buying them in Wisconsin and other border states and setting them off at lakeside gatherings and backyard picnics. They say Minnesota is deprived of revenue from broader fireworks sales.
The bill's House sponsor John Kriesel said so many Minnesotans buy fireworks now that it's silly to ban their sale in the state.
"We need to start treating people like responsible adults and quit babysitting them," said Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove.
Opponents, including firefighters and emergency room doctors, warn that the high-power fireworks are too dangerous and argue that local governments should be empowered to keep them out.
A video that critics distributed to lawmakers shows misdirected fireworks showering people, cars and lawns with sparks. The three-minute video of fireworks displays gone bad warns that the devices can cause serious injury.
"Fun celebrations turn tragic," it warns.
Companion legislation awaits Senate action. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton hasn't taken a public position on the bill.
Minnesota tiptoed into the fireworks realm in 2002 with a bill that legalized novelty fireworks for the first time in six decades. But nothing that was shot into the air was allowed and there were limits on the amount of pyrotechnic mixtures.
Under current law and the proposal, fireworks would still be barred on public property, including state parks. Store clerks would be required to verify that buyers are over 18. Large-scale "display" fireworks used in community festivals would still be reserved for certified professionals.
If approved, the new law would be in effect on June 1.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.