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House Lights Up Fireworks

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Minnesota state Rep. Jason Rarick of Pine City, decked out in a fireworks tie, says on Monday, April 11, 2016, that a fireworks bill he supports would allow Minnesotans to buy the same type of fireworks they can in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
Minnesota state Rep. Jason Rarick of Pine City, decked out in a fireworks tie, says on Monday, April 11, 2016, that a fireworks bill he supports would allow Minnesotans to buy the same type of fireworks they can in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

The Minnesota House lit up fireworks legislation Monday, but Senate Democrats and Gov. Mark Dayton are expected to douse the red glare.

The House voted 73-56 Monday to allow the same type of fireworks in Minnesota that residents now travel to Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota to buy to celebrate Independence Day.

“This takes significant steps for Minnesotans to show their national pride,” said bill sponsor Rep. Jason Rarick, decked out in a bright fireworks fire.

The Pine City Republican’s bill would allow fireworks to be sold June 1 through July 10 every year, but gives local governments the ability to further limit or ban sales.

“Regardless of the outcome of this bill, there will be fireworks used in Minnesota,” Rarick said, adding that Minnesotans will not receive income or taxes from their sale if the law is not changed.

Most fire, police and health officials oppose legalizing more fireworks than the simple ones, such as sparklers, allowed today.

Rarick said that injuries cannot be reduced by legislation. “That is up to personal responsibility.”

The Rarick legislation would allow firecrackers, Roman candles and other loud or aerial devices. Now, he said, a spark-emitting device can travel about 15 feet into the air, while his bill would allow some that could go as high as 100 feet.

A southwestern Minnesota legislator told of a reason he wants fireworks legal in the state.

“Within 100 feet of my district, in South Dakota, we have a fireworks (stand),” Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said. “It is bare prairie.”

The stand provides jobs a month out of the year, jobs that Swedzinski said “could be in Canby, in any number of small towns in our part of Minnesota.”

A 2012 study showed Minnesota loses $5 million in sales taxes to fireworks sales in other states.

Rarick called the measure a freedom bill.

A Duluth fire official-state representative argued against the bill.

“I understand the freedom part of this,” Democratic Rep. Erik Simonson said. “In the town I live in, they are out of control.”

As a firefighter, Simonson said, he has fought garage, house and apartment fires that fireworks started. On top of that, he added, he has been on calls for many fireworks-caused injuries.

“With the increased use of fireworks, you see increased injuries, increased hospital visits, increased harm,” Rep. Debra Hilstrom, D-Brooklyn Center, said.

She said among her concerns is that the Rarick legislation would allow fireworks to be sold in tents, which would be more dangerous than selling them in permanent buildings.

A Senate bill to legalize fireworks, authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, has not moved through committees. Senators passed a similar bill in 2012 when Republicans were in control, the Democrats now hold the majority.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton last week said that he would veto Rarick’s bill, like he did to the 2012 bill.

“If somebody takes fireworks and blows off their own arm or blows off a child’s arm standing nearby, whatever, I want the state of Minnesota to say, ‘You’re doing that illegally,'” the governor said.

 


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