Fireworks Act Veto – Ohio Ag Net

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By Leisa Boley Hellwarth

On July 2, 2021, Governor DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 113, “Revise the Fireworks Act.” Let me start by saying that I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I do however have a lab named George who is terrified of fireworks and a barn full of calves very agitated by the sounds associated with this activity…but I digress.
SB 113 would have made significant changes to Ohio’s fireworks safety laws. Under the vetoed legislation, Ohioans would have been allowed to set off fireworks on certain holidays, removing a decades-old ban. The area allowed for fireworks shops would also have been expanded. Additionally, local governments would have had the ability to refuse to allow commercial use of fireworks by residents.
In his veto, Governor DeWine noted that SB 113 was “not in the best interests of the people of Ohio”. He specifically mentioned that the bill increased the square footage of fireworks stores without requiring adequate security features in stores with improved square footage. The governor also noted that the bill would have made Ohio one of the least restrictive states when it comes to fireworks regulations.
Currently, Ohio is one of the most restrictive states as residents are prohibited from setting off fireworks. It’s been Ohio law since at least 1972, maybe longer. Illinois, Vermont, and Massachusetts are the only other jurisdictions with similar bans.
Ohio’s current fireworks laws, while strict, are also somewhat confusing. There are three types of fireworks permitted under Ohio law: gimmick and novelty; consumer; and display.
If it smokes, flickers, pops, or meanders, Ohio consumers are allowed to buy and enjoy. These are fancy and novelty fireworks and include sparklers and bang snaps. This is the only type of fireworks Ohioans can shoot.
If it shoots and explodes, such as bottle rockets, firecrackers and aerial fireworks, it is illegal for consumers to leave. However, Ohioans can purchase consumer fireworks (firecrackers, bottle rockets, etc.) from a licensed wholesaler or manufacturer. They cannot be discharged in-state, however, and must be out-of-state within 48 hours of purchase. For a time, Ohioans who purchased consumer fireworks had to sign documents certifying that the consumer fireworks would be out of state within 48 hours of purchase. This provision was known as the “liar’s law” and was repealed.
Only a licensed fireworks exhibitor may fire consumer fireworks in Ohio. Interested applicants must apply to the Bureau of Testing and Registration (part of the Ohio Department of Commerce), take an exam, and complete a background check. Applicants must also submit a letter of proficiency in handling and discharging fireworks from a licensed Ohio exhibitor or possess a certified copy of a fireworks license from another state.
The third category of fireworks are demonstration fireworks (also known as 1.3G fireworks). Under current Ohio law, it is illegal for an unauthorized person to make, possess, use, or store display or display fireworks.
A display permit is required for all fireworks, which is issued by the local fire chief, police chief, or county sheriff. The permit specifies the date, time, location and various other parameters of how the exhibit will be run. Applicants must be a licensed fireworks exhibitor and fireworks must be purchased from a licensed Ohio wholesaler, manufacturer, or out-of-state shipper. Authorities inspect the show site before, during, and after the show using a checklist issued by the state fire marshal. Federal, state and local laws and regulations must be observed. The exhibit must also comply with the safety provisions of the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Fire Code. During filming, only registered employees and the certified fire safety officer are allowed on the dump site.
First-time violations of Ohio’s fireworks laws are considered first-degree misdemeanors and punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. Illegal fireworks may be confiscated by law enforcement. Violations include failing to transport fireworks out of state within 48 hours and discharging fireworks.
Fireworks can be dangerous. They pose a fire hazard, can cause blindness, disturb animals, and bother those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fireworks are also beautiful, exciting, and an integral part of the American party experience.
Ohio lawmakers have until December 31, 2022 to override the governor’s veto. The Senate should initiate the procedure. A 3/5 majority is required in each chamber.
We wish you a happy, safe and legal Labor Day celebration.

Leisa Boley Hellwarth is a dairy farmer and lawyer. She represents farmers throughout Ohio from her office near Celina. His office number is 419-586-1072.

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