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Pa. Proposes More Local Control Of Fireworks Use

A Pennsylvania state lawmaker wants to allow local municipalities to have more control over consumer use of fireworks.

Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, recently introduced House Bill 1628. Act 43 of 2017 allows those over the age of 18 to purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks. Freeman is proposing allowing local governments to control the hours fireworks can be used and increase penalties for those who violate local regulations.

“With the arrival of the summer months and Independence Day close at hand there is once again a growing concern on the part of residents regarding the use of consumer fireworks. Last summer we witnessed widespread abuse of the use of fireworks in many residential neighborhoods that proved very disruptive to people’s lives and undermined their quality of life by having to endure the discharge of such fireworks throughout the day and late into the night,” Freeman said.

“This disruptive behavior is unacceptable and must be reined in. My proposal would provide local governments with the authority to pass local ordinances to better regulate the use of fireworks and to impose substantial penalties for the violation of those local ordinances.”

In addition to allowing more local control, Freeman proposes a statewide limitation on the use of consumer fireworks between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday statewide and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There are exceptions to the hours limitations for New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Businesses that sell fireworks, which are licensed by the state, would have to provide written notice with each purchase of any local ordinances implemented by a borough, city, township or town. Those who violate fireworks laws could be fined between $100 and $500 for a first offense and between $500 and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

There are already limits to the use of fireworks under Act 43. Fireworks can’t be used on public or private property without express permission of the property owner; from, within or toward a motor vehicle or building; within 150 feet of an occupied structure, regardless if a person is present; and while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug.

Freeman, who voted against the 2017 state law that allows consumers, 18 or older, to purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks is also co-sponsoring House Bill 988 that would outright repeal the 2017 fireworks law, reverting to what was previously permitted in Pennsylvania.

“One of the reasons I opposed making these fireworks legal back in 2017 was because I thought they would be disruptive and unsafe,” Freeman said. “If those using fireworks cannot do it responsibly with consideration for how disruptive they can be to a neighborhood, then the legislature has no other recourse than to repeal the 2017 fireworks law. If we can’t get the votes in the legislature necessary for an outright repeal of the 2017 fireworks law then, at the very least, we need to enact my legislation to give local governments the authority to crack down on the abusive use of fireworks so that communities don’t have to endure the type of disruptive behavior caused by an irresponsible use of fireworks.”

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