Hood: Holidays come and go, but fireworks stick around
If you think it’s still the 4th of July in your community, you’re not alone.
In the four years since Michigan’s ban on consumer-grade fireworks was lifted, communities from Grand Haven to Royal Oak have learned that explosive disturbances don’t always end on January 1st or July 4th.
Legislative offices in Lansing continue to hear from citizens who are tired of the year-round fireworks, but whose local communities are powerless to make enforceable changes because of the state law that strips them of most of their authority.
While a 2013 change was a step in the right direction, it still protects fireworks explosions on all national holidays, plus the day before and after each holiday. In practice, people are now setting off fireworks whenever they want. Additionally, the new fireworks are larger and more dangerous than those Michigan allowed before 2011.
According to the Michigan Municipal League, since 2013 at least 105 local governments have passed ordinances to exercise the inadequate discretion afforded to them by the state rule. However, local governments still can’t regulate the sale or transport of fireworks at all, even if they are proven to be dangerous in their community. Nor can they ban fireworks at, say, 8:30 a.m. January 17, because it’s the day before Martin Luther King Day, or at 11:30 p.m. on October 11, because it’s the day after Columbus Day. And of course they can’t ban fireworks on Presidents’ Day.
Not only are fireworks loud and intrusive, they can also be dangerous. Just this summer we witnessed injuries to two NFL players. Also, a Detroit television weatherman lost an eye due to fireworks, and a man was tragically killed in Walled Lake by fireworks. If these accidents are happening to adults, we should all be very concerned about how dangerous these larger fireworks are for children to be around and use.
I believe it’s time to let our local communities determine completely when – and if – they want to allow these fireworks in their communities. Furthermore, they should be able to regulate the manner in which these dangerous objects are sold. I also believe they should be able to set the fines and penalties for violations in their own city.
Accordingly, I sponsored Senate Bill 300, which returns complete authority to local units of government and lets them decide how to regulate the sale and use of fireworks within their jurisdictions. Some communities may indeed enjoy the now-commonplace year-round use, while others will only want to allow them on the 4th of July or New Years. In either case, the choice should be made at the local level and not through a dictate from Lansing.
With all the talk in Lansing about the importance of local control and the dangers of overreach by state and federal governments, it only makes sense to give each community the power to decide what’s right for them.
Call or email your state senator and tell them to support SB 300, so that you and your neighbors will have the power to decide whether next summer will be as explosive as this one.
State Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, represents the 3rd District.