Saturday, February 6, 1999


Fireworks ban
wouldn’t cover
New Year’s 2000

Any earlier and sellers,
already stocking up, would
possess contraband

Take our online fireworks poll

Online directory to
legislators and their offices

By Mike Yuen


There would be one more big explosion -- call it the millennium bang -- if two Senate panels get their way.

Legislature '99 A statewide ban on fireworks, except when used for cultural or religious events, was approved late yesterday afternoon by the Senate Judiciary, and Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs committees.

The prohibition would go into effect on Jan. 2, 2000, the day after the start of the new millennium.

Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu), chairman of the Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, said he and fellow lawmakers purposely didn't want to set an earlier date for the proposed ban to go into effect.

If they did, fireworks distributors, who are building their stock for the century-changing days of Dec. 31, 1999, and Jan. 1, 2000, would suddenly find themselves with a product deemed to be contraband, he said.

About an hour after the vote by the Senate panels, the House Judiciary Committee deferred action on two fireworks measures.

One would have allowed the counties to regulate the use of nonaerial fireworks through the issuance of so-called certificates of use.

Aerial fireworks are now banned.

The second bill would make it legal to possess aerial fireworks if a person has a valid, county-issued permit.

If his panel wants to advance a fireworks measure to the House Finance Committee, it must act by Feb. 19 to meet a legislative deadline, said Judiciary Chairman Paul Oshiro (D, Ewa Beach).

The bill approved by the two Senate committees would also allow individual counties not to be part of a statewide prohibition. If any of the state's four counties opt out, each would have to establish its own rules to regulate the sale and use of fireworks and the enforcement of those rules.

Any county that decides not to be part of a ban should not consider approaching the Legislature for a fireworks enforcement subsidy, said Senate Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, East Maui-North Kauai).

The proposed ban would keep on the books the existing law making it a felony to sell aerial fireworks. But the sale of ground-based fireworks would be a misdemeanor and the possession of ground-based fireworks a petty misdemeanor.

Initially, the Senate panels wanted to make the selling of any type of fireworks a felony.

Fireworks containing a minuscule amount of explosive would remain legal since they don't fall under the state's legal definition of fireworks.

Honolulu police Capt. Darryl Perry said he is concerned that the exemptions in the Senate bill create a loophole in controlling fireworks. Would a group of fireworks enthusiasts, he wondered, be able to form a self-described religious group and qualify for an exemption? The Honolulu Police Department, whose officers say they don't have the manpower to enforce fireworks regulations, lobbied for law that would ban everyone from using fireworks.

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