by Marley Parish, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate approved legislation on Thursday proposing reform to the state’s existing fireworks law, including restrictions on when they can be set off.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks, passed the upper chamber with a 44-6 vote. It now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
After the Legislature legalized the sale and use of consumer fireworks in 2017, lawmakers received complaints from communities and law enforcement about noise and safety.
Farry’s legislation would limit the timeframe for using fireworks from 10 a.m. until 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 also requires people to give livestock owners at least three days’ notice before using fireworks near an animal housing facility.
The proposal also calls for redirecting some of the revenue generated by the fireworks tax to create EMS program grants and includes penalties for improper sales and illegal use.
Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, who voted against the bill, said the proposal is not a “real solution to the problem,” citing safety concerns not addressed by the legislation. She cited feedback from law enforcement officials who can’t respond to calls in time or cite violators.
“It happens fast. And in a small police department in an eight-square mile city, it’s virtually impossible,” she said. “They’re being set off in multiple places. They can’t respond to them fast enough.”
Schwank added that increasing penalties and fines “is meaningless” if police are overwhelmed and said if the police can’t cite violators, fines go unenforced.
“Anything short of a full ban on consumer-grade fireworks is little more than a half measure to appear as if we’re responding to constituent concerns without addressing the underlying problem that we created,” Schwank said.