Fireworks law likely to curb summer-long pyrotechnics
Tired of fireworks by the neighbor yet?
Depending on the Michigan community, the booms, flashes and bursts may be contained to fewer days this year thanks to legislation passed at the height of the lame duck Legislature in December.
Michigan lawmakers whittled down the number of days during which communities were required to allow fireworks from 30 to 12 days each year, most of them falling around the Fourth of July. The last required day for fireworks around Independence Day is Friday.
Legislators left it up to individual communities to decide whether to pass ordinances banning fireworks on any of the remaining days of the year.
“Communities are unique, and we always think these decisions should be made locally,” said Jennifer Rigterink, legislative association for state and federal affairs at the Michigan Municipal League. “The legislation was giving back communities more control than they had at the present time.”
The 2018 law would protect fireworks usage from local bans from 11 a.m. until:
- 1 a.m. on Dec. 31 and the Jan. 1 New Year
- 11:45 p.m. the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day
- 11:45 p.m. June 29 to July 4, along with July 5 if that is a Friday or a Saturday
- 11:45 p.m. the Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day
The law also increased the fine from up to $500 to a maximum of $1,000 for fireworks used outside of the days designated by the state or local governments, Rigterink said.
Many Pro Fireworks customers were unaware of the change in the law, but people investing in larger displays made sure to take advantage of it Saturday, said Jim Stajos, the president and owner of Pro Fireworks.
"We’ve been educating everybody. Since the beginning of the season we’ve been putting it on the bottom of receipts," Stajos said about the new 12-day window for fireworks. "But a lot of people didn’t know. Even some communities didn’t know it.”
Stajos was involved in the creation of the legislation last year and the 2011 law that allowed for the sale and use of consumer-grade fireworks in Michigan. He said he would have liked a few extra days over the Fourth of July, but recognized compromise was necessary.
Even the six-day span over the Fourth of July has spurred a fair number of complaints from residents not used to the longer time frame for fireworks usage, said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.
In the past, "it was never more than three days in a row," he said.
Stajos and Rigterink said legislation surrounding fireworks usage likely wouldn't be needed if people were more prudent.
“Outside of local government and state rules, a lot of it just comes down to people being courteous with their neighbors,” Rigterink said.
But the pyrotechnics come with a stiffer tax cost than in most states around the country.
Michigan is one of six states that levy statewide excise taxes on fireworks, according to the Tax Foundation, andits $1,000 and $1,200 certificate fees for temporary and permanent sales structures are among the 15 highest retailer fees in the nation. The temporary structure certificate fee in Michigan decreases to $700 if a retailer has more than 10 tents.
The 6% safety fee, which is layered on top of the state’s 6% sales tax, generated roughly $1.68 million in revenue last year, and certificate fees for temporary and permanent structures generated a combined $612,200. The roughly $2.29 million in combined revenue goes toward the continued enforcement of the program and firefighter training, according to the state treasury.
The $1,000 and $1,200 certificate fees, an increase from the prior year, are necessary not only for regular inspections of certified facilities, but also to crack down on homemade fireworks and "overloads," devices overloaded with more explosive power than what is legal in Michigan.
"We’re trying to limit access to the stuff that will really hurt them," Sehlmeyer said.