The Lead

Pa. Senate committee advances proposed fireworks reform

By: - June 20, 2022 4:56 pm

(c) R. Gino Santa Maria – Fireworks at night over dark blue sky

With proposed reform moving through the Republican-controlled Legislature this month, Pennsylvania could soon see new limits on when fireworks can be set off.

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee voted 6-5 on Monday to send legislation introduced by Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, reforming the state’s existing fireworks law to the full chamber for consideration. Every Republican, except Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, voted in favor of the bill.

The 2017 state law aimed to create a revenue source for the state and expanded what kinds of fireworks Pennsylvanians could use. But in the intervening five years since it went on the books, state officials have received complaints from communities and law enforcement about noise and safety.

“This bill was negotiated with the municipal organizations, the first responder organizations, the humane society, and our agriculture representatives, as well as the fireworks industry,” Farry said Monday. “All of those groups are unanimously in favor of the passage of this.”

The proposal would limit the timeframe for using fireworks from 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. — except on July 2, 3, and 4 and December 31, when consumer fireworks may be used until 1 a.m. the following day. 

The bill would also redirect the fireworks tax to help fund EMS and firefighter programs and require people to give livestock owners at least three days’ notice before using fireworks near an animal housing facility. 

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The legislation proposes greater penalties for improper sales and illegal use — a provision Sens. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, expressed concern over and suggested working on an amendment to address penalties.

“Jail time for fireworks seems excessive,” Street said, adding that the commonwealth would bear the cost of having to incarcerate someone for violating the law.

Yaw, who helped draft Pennsylvania’s existing fireworks law, added that the legislation would “make criminals” out of people who want to celebrate holidays or special occasions.

“Somehow, that just does not fit with me,” he said. “I think that there are ways to regulate things.”

Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, said the legislation “doesn’t cut it.” She added that lawmakers do not understand the challenges law enforcement face while trying to enforce the law and monitor community safety.

“It just doesn’t fix the problem,” she added. 

The House of Representatives approved the bill — introduced after complaints over the 5-year-old law that expanded fireworks’ sale and use — earlier this month.

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