Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 30, 2013

Editorial: Fireworks-weary should put onus on Legislature

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Back in 2011 the Michigan Legislature, in one of its least adult moments, did away with Michigan’s decades-old ban on what are commonly known as “consumer fireworks” and essentially let a few people with more money than sense wage war on the rest of us.

You know the rest. Even though the new law limited the use of the larger, more powerful fireworks to the day before, day of and day after 10 “holidays” designated by the state, once the barrage began it didn’t end — in some places at least — until the snow and cold forced the fireworks crowd indoors.

Now, Leelanau County citizens worried that warm weather will bring Round Two have found they have few options.

Dozens of residents fed up with late-night booms and the fireworks debris that litters area beaches and yards went to the Leelanau County Board in April to seek a county ordinance to reduce or ban fireworks.

But they found that state law prevents a countywide law, and though villages and townships can pass limiting ordinances, they don’t have the police to enforce them.

One solution may be to have individual villages and townships pass identical ordinances - none of which could be more restrictive than state law — that the county sheriff’s department could enforce without worrying about dealing with a patchwork of laws or being in a position to enforce state law.

But that puts a huge burden on the sheriff’s department (any sheriff’s department, for that matter), which has limited manpower to chase down late-night fireworks scofflaws.

The best way to deal with all this is to lobby the Legislature - just as the fireworks industry did - to change the law that caused all the problems in the first place. They started it, let them finish it.

Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, who represents Leelanau County, said there is a “preliminary agreement” in the Legislature to alter the law, but the best way to ensure that happens is to call and write your lawmaker and demand change.

Lawmakers could again ban Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers, but that seems unlikely. At the very least the number of “holidays” should be reduced to three or four — Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and perhaps New Year’s Day. There is no reason in the world to include Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas in the list. Nothing says Christmas like a few Roman candles or a bottle rocket, eh?

It will be interesting to see who has more clout — out-of-state fireworks industry lobbyists, or state residents. Give the Legislature’s track record, bet on the lobbyists.