Another move is on to relax state law stipulating what kind of fireworks can be sold and purchased in Michigan without a permit, an effort that seemed poised for enactment during the last legislative session but failed to come up for a full vote in the state’s upper chamber after it passed out of committee.
Currently, Michigan law prohibits the sale for personal use of any fireworks that fly through the air or explode.
Under a proposal by state Rep. Harold Haugh (D-Roseville), so-called “consumer fireworks” — essentially aerial devices generating the most “oohs” and “ahhs” at Fourth of July celebrations — could be bought without a permit.
Haugh echoed last week statements he has made in the past that low-ball estimates peg the legislation’s fiscal impact at providing an additional $5 million to $9 million a year for the state through new permit fees and sales tax revenues, with more liberal figures citing the potential revenue at between $12 million and $15 million annually.
According to Haugh, the legislation has been modified since it came up last session, including a reduction in the licensing fee for a brick-and-mortar business — not a tent sale, for example — wishing to sell the aerial wares from $5,000 to $3,000 at the recommendation of the state fire marshal. That fee would be reviewed after the first year the law is in place, Haugh said.
Additional changes include an “opt-in” provision that would allow local governments to ban consumer fireworks sales.
“If you are going to sell the consumer-grade fireworks in a local community, you have to get approval from local communities,” Haugh said.
Lobbying groups from Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana — all of which have more relaxed laws regarding consumer-grade fireworks and are frequent destinations for Michigan residents wishing to upgrade their own personal fireworks display — have been pushing hard against the legislation, according to Haugh.
“We have to quit sending our revenue to Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana,” he said. “Now all of a sudden it’s a big safety issue (to some). But the reality is that Michigan people are going (to those states) anyway (to buy those fireworks), so why not bring in the revenue?”
When the legislation came up during the last legislative session, it received significant bipartisan support in the state House of Representatives, which was controlled by Democrats at the time, and cleared the Senate Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee in the waning days of the lameduck session. However, it failed to come up for a vote before the full Republican-held Senate.
The legislation — House Bills 4293 and 4294, which would create the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act and establish sentencing guidelines for those who violate the law — are scheduled for a hearing today, Wednesday, April 13 in the state House Regulatory Reform Committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom).
Under the legislation, consumer fireworks are defined as fireworks devices that are designed to produce visible effects by combustion and that are required to comply with the construction, chemical composition, and labeling regulations put forth by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Display fireworks would be defined as large fireworks devices that are explosive materials intended for use in fireworks displays and designed to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration, or detonation, according to legislative analysts.
Retailers wishing to sell consumer fireworks other than low-grade fireworks would only be able to do so at a facility that is in compliance with the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code; has a fire alarm and burglar system; includes a fire suppression system; is not located within 300 feet of another retail sales facility; has a retail sales area of at least 1,000 square feet; and has a minimum of $2 million in public liability and product liability insurance.
Any retailer who violates those requirements would be subject to a fine of up to $2,500 under the legislation as proposed.
Staff in Crawford’s office said a number of lengthy substitutes have been offered since the bill was introduced.
State Reps. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wolverine Lake) and Bill Rogers (R-Milford) are co-sponsors of the legislation. Brown could not be reached for comment prior to press time.