The Michigan House today voted to give local municipalities more control over the sale, use and safety of consumer-grade fireworks within their borders after approving bipartisan plans sponsored by Macomb County legislators.
State Reps. John Chirkun, Diana Farrington, Kevin Hertel, Pamela Hornberger, Peter Lucido, Steve Marino, William Sowerby and Jeff Yaroch combined in a joint effort to solve growing problems within Michigan’s current fireworks laws after the legalization of fireworks in 2011.
Under the plan, local officials could restrict the use of consumer-grade fireworks except the following days after 11 a.m.: December 31, the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial weekend, June 29 to July 4, July 5 if the date falls on a Friday or Saturday, and the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
“This legislation would allow the communities of Warren, Roseville and other local units of government in Macomb County to better regulate fireworks by limiting the dates and times in which they can be used, and increases the penalty for those who violate a local ordinance,” said Chirkun, of Roseville, who is the main sponsor of House Bill 5450. “While not perfect, these bills do make much-needed changes to current law in an effort to address some of the many concerns I have heard from my constituents back home. I would like to thank my colleague, Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), for his willingness to work with me on this issue in a bipartisan manner, and I will continue to work with him on this as we try to get this legislation signed into law before the year’s end.”
Violators of a time restriction set by a local community could face a $1,000 fine – doubling the current penalty. The plan also calls for firework vendors to provide customers with a copy of local ordinances to ensure transparency and knowledge of guidelines.
“’It sounds like a war zone out there’,” said Farrington, of Utica. “That’s what a lot of my constituents tell me. I’m confident this compromise will be a solution Macomb County residents and local officials can appreciate.”
Rep. Hertel, of St. Clair Shores, said local officials have been wanting more jurisdiction over fireworks, adding they have had problems with policing current laws.
“Anyone who lives in Macomb County knows that reducing the negative impact of fireworks in our community is a necessity,” Hertel said. “This sensible legislation not only makes usage guidelines firmer, but also takes steps toward restoring full local control. Local governments know what’s best for their communities, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure they have the final say in how fireworks are regulated.”
The plan also provides means for the governor, local fire marshals, or the Department of Natural Resources to declare temporary fireworks bans under certain weather conditions. The ban would act similarly to local or regional burn bans in instances of high winds or drought.
“Safety of our kids and the entire community has always been a top priority of mine,” said Yaroch, of Richmond. “As a former firefighter, I have seen my share of preventable fires. Michigan’s weather is unpredictable, and when we are in spells of exceptionally dry weather, fireworks poses an even greater risk. This legislation helps our local fire departments to enforce a ‘no burning’ restriction and prohibit the use of fireworks during extreme weather.”
Rep. Sowerby, of Clinton Township, said the legislation is a great first step for fireworks regulation.
“House Bills 5939-5941 are a good additional step toward improving local control of fireworks use. However, I will continue working towards even greater allowances for local governments to better choose how to further regulate the use of fireworks.”
The bills also make a variety of changes regarding vendor certification requirements, how retail locations are operated and allow cities with a population of more than 100,000 to regulate temporary fireworks stands if they want.
“We now have enough insight and familiarity within the state’s fireworks industry to determine which changes are necessary for the communities throughout Macomb County and across Michigan,” said Hornberger, of Chesterfield Township. “Our collaborative efforts ended with legislation we feel best oversees local retailers and best protects residents purchasing fireworks products, and makes sure the industry continues to be a booming business in Michigan.”
Rep. Steve Marino, of Harrison Township, noted how many calls local authorities receive each year related to noise complaints and other disputes involving fireworks, adding the legislation will reduce the amount of complaints.
“The Harrison Township, Clinton Township and Macomb Township police and fire departments receive thousands of calls year-round about fireworks being blown up well into the early morning,” Marino said. “With new time restrictions, we can all agree this legislation will allow first responders to dedicate more time and energy to other matters in the community, and potentially save departments money.”
Rep. Peter Lucido, of Shelby Township, said the bottom line is letting “Macomb be Macomb”, when it comes to fireworks ordinances.
“We now have significantly limited the number of days fireworks can be set off throughout the year, and under this legislation, local governments will be able to set some restrictions of their own,” Lucido said. “This makes it much easier for Macomb law enforcement to police their area’s rules. At the end of the day, we are bringing about civility in our neighborhoods.”
House Bills 5939-5941 now move to the Senate for further consideration.