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In Fireworks Debate, Dems Push Restrictions, GOP Pushes Jobs, Local Control

fireworks
AUGUSTA – Lawmakers on the Criminal Justice Committee on Monday heard testimony on several bills that would restrict the sale and use of fireworks in the state of Maine.

The law legalizing fireworks went into effect in January of 2012 and has allowed 17 retail fireworks stores to open in Maine. According to industry estimates, the stores employ roughly 100 Mainers full-time and another 500 on a seasonal or part-time basis.

“The law to transfer fireworks regulation from the state to local communities was a jobs bill that has paid off big-time,” said House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette.

“It would be a shame to take this freedom away from Maine communities and these jobs away from Maine people,” Fredette said.

Five of the six bills related to fireworks have been introduced by Democrats. The Republican proposal, introduced by Rep. Jarrod S. Crockett (R-Bethel), would narrow the curfew for fireworks use from 10 to 9PM. The other proposals would restrict the use of fireworks around farms or require users to seek special local permits.

Rep. Michel A. Lajoie (D-Lewiston) is the lead sponsor of L.D. 111, An Act To Restrict the Sale, Purchase and Use of Fireworks in the State. Lajoie’s bill would repeal the 2011 law that originally allowed the use of consumer fireworks. While L.D. 111 was not discussed this week, it is the most severe of the current proposals and would ban the sale and use of fireworks outright. The hearing for Lajoie’s bill will take place next Monday.

Lajoie said he introduced his bill after receiving a number of nuisance complaints from constituents and Maine residents.

“We got complaints from people concerned with the noise, the environmental impact, the effect of the noise on horses and cows,” said Lejoie. He said his bill would return Maine’s fireworks laws to the way they had been for more than 60 years.

“They had local control in the 30s and 40s, and that didn’t work” said Lajoie. “The current system didn’t work before,” said Lajoie, who pointed to the difficulties rural law enforcement officers have had in catching illegal fireworks users.

Lajoie said that he is aware of the potential job losses that will come from passage of his bills. “It’s a big concern of mine, another number in the equation,” he said.

“If my bill passes, yes, the stores would have to take fireworks off the shelves,” said Lajoie.

“My bill would put these businesses in a very bad situation, but the product being sold is the source of the complaints,” he said.

Lajoie said his bill is not necessarily the solution and that he would like to see vendors work with municipalities.

According to Lajoie, the State Fire Marshal reported only 20 fireworks-related injuries in 2012.

By S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter

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