Local communities gaining more control over fireworks

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published January 25, 2019


HARRISON TOWNSHIP/MOUNT CLEMENS — On Dec. 29, outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder approved a package of bills aimed at giving local communities more control to regulate the use and sale of fireworks.

Under the three-bill package, local officials can restrict the use of consumer-grade fireworks from the currently allowed 30 days a year to about 12 days a year, although several other changes to fireworks-related laws were also included.

House Bill 5939 enacted a variety of changes to Michigan’s fireworks laws. The changes include increasing the fees an applicant has to pay to obtain a certificate to sell consumer fireworks — those selling consumer fireworks without a certificate will be liable for a civil fine instead of a misdemeanor; requiring a certificate applicant to submit a bond to secure the collection of estimated sales tax and fireworks safety fees; and giving the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs more autonomy when processing certificate applications and violations.

Under House Bill 5939, retailers also are required to provide purchasers with a notice of when fireworks may be used.

House Bill 5940 — which was written by state Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville — allows a municipality with a population of more than 100,000, or any local government in a county with a population of more than 750,000, to regulate the number of temporary structures from which fireworks are sold and the distance between them in that community.

House Bill 5941 grants more authority to local fire departments to enforce no-burning restrictions in regard to environmental concerns and gives the governor, the Department of Natural Resources and the state fire marshal the power to enforce statewide no-burning restrictions. It also states that local departments must notify residents within 24 hours if such bans have been lifted.

Violators of a time restriction set by a local community could face a $1,000 fine, doubling the current penalty.

Chirkun said the bill package brings “much-needed changes” to Michigan’s Fireworks Safety Act.

“Although fireworks are part of many different celebrations and traditions, we need rules in place to ensure their use is not negatively affecting other people’s quality of life,” Chirkun stated in a press release.

Rep. Steve Marino, R-Harrison Township, one of the supporters of the bill package, noted how many calls local authorities receive each year related to noise complaints and other disputes involving fireworks, adding that the legislation will reduce the number of complaints.

“The Harrison Township, Clinton Township and Macomb Township police and fire departments receive thousands of calls year-round about fireworks being blown up well into the early morning,” Marino said in a press release. “With new time restrictions, we can all agree this legislation will allow first responders to dedicate more time and energy to other matters in the community, and potentially save departments money.”

Many local officials will be discussing what these changes could mean for their communities.

“The new law will allow us to further restrict the use of fireworks, and based on complaints that we receive, I expect that we will further restrict the days when they can be discharged,” said Harrison Township Supervisor Ken Verkest.

Verkest said that often when new legislation is enacted, certain groups or law firms will write “model legislation,” or larger municipalities will enact ordinances and smaller ones can “pirate” the language from them.

“Although we have some national holidays coming up, usually the use of fireworks in the winter isn’t a problem,” he said. “Therefore, I believe we will wait until we can use existing ordinance language, since we typically don’t have any complaints until the warmer months.”

Mount Clemens Mayor Barb Dempsey said the city’s fireworks ordinance has historically mimicked the state’s, meaning city officials will likely be making some changes in the coming months.

“I’m glad that someone at the state level is taking a look at this,” she said.