Fireworks law needs reform

Guest Editorials
Michigan lawmakers are taking a second look at the new fireworks law that took effect this year. The review and needed reforms can’t come soon enough.

When they passed the bill last year, our legislators apparently were blinded by the prospect of more revenue the new law was expected to bring. Michigan residents traditionally traveled to the neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana to buy fireworks banned in Michigan.

If relaxed fireworks restrictions were good for business, the law’s other provisions posed problems for local municipalities. The statute prevents communities from banning or limiting fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after eight federal holidays.

Handcuffing local governments might have seemed like a good idea when lawmakers approved the law, but local officials have set them straight.

The Fourth of July might have been the loudest holiday in Michigan’s history. Fireworks explosions resonated throughout the state’s communities with a fury few can recall.

Police received a flood of complaints, but there was little they could do. The three-day window on fireworks freedom for each federal holiday gave the most inconsiderate neighbors a pass no matter how early nor how late they set off their firecrackers.

State Rep. Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) is the author of the fireworks law. He is the co-chairman of a bipartisan committee charged with assessing the law’s problems and recommending fixes.

The committee’s formation was prompted by the furor launched by the law and its imposition on communities. Despite plenty of objections that were raised when it was enacted, the growing controversy seemed to catch him by surprise.

“This was much larger than anyone anticipated, including myself,” Haugh said of the complaints he received.

Let’s just say the fireworks law was far from the Legislature’s greatest moment. It was created with little thought about the possible consequences of putting powerful pyrotechnics into the hands of residents who might not not know how to use them properly or when to set them off without disturbing their neighbors.

If lawmakers come up with reforms, the most important of them must be giving local authorities greater power in regulating their use. Even it that occurs, communities still will be busy enforcing a law they didn’t want without state aid they need.