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Fireworks Measure Looks To Change Florida Rules

U.S. Military

An effort to allow Floridians to add some personal sparkle to the Fourth of July and two other holidays makes its first appearance before a pair of legislative committees next week.

Senate Community Affairs on Monday and the House Business and Professions Subcommittee on Wednesday are slated to take up nearly identical measures (SB 140, HB 65) by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, and Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral.

The proposals for the 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14, would allow individuals to pledge to use the fireworks “solely and exclusively” during one of three designated holidays.

Both measures would allow the use of fireworks on Memorial Day and Independence Day. The Senate proposal also designates a third holiday on New Year’s Eve, while the House version allows for the fireworks on New Year’s Day.

Florida’s fireworks regulations have repeatedly come under scrutiny by legislators, with one lawmaker calling the current statute one of the “goofiest laws in the nation.”

Under Florida law, relatively innocuous devices such as sparklers are legal for Floridians to buy. But “firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, roman candles, dago bombs, and any fireworks containing any explosives or flammable compound or any tablets or other device containing any explosive substance” are off-limits.

But individuals can buy and use aerial and explosive devices if they sign a waiver saying they will use the fireworks for certain agricultural purposes, specifically for “frightening birds from agricultural work and fish hatcheries.”

State lawmakers over the years have tried and failed to amend the statute regulating the use and sale of fireworks, from repealing the ban altogether to proposing changes to the legal waiver. But fireworks companies --- including TNT Fireworks, Phantom Fireworks and Sky King Fireworks --- have strenuously opposed any changes to the law, warning of more injuries to consumers if the market is less restricted. In 2018, trauma centers also lobbied against changing the law.

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