Thursday, March 4, 1999


Senate passes
fireworks ban, with

By Craig Gima


State senators appear to be as divided over the issue of a fireworks ban as the people they represent.

A bill that would ban fireworks after the millennium celebration except for religious and cultural purposes passed the Senate unanimously yesterday. But 11 senators expressed reservations about a ban and suggested the bill needs further work.

"Celebrating New Year's Eve with fireworks is a custom and tradition interwoven in our island's unique history," said Sen. Randy Iwase (D, Mililani).

Iwase compared fireworks to pidgin English, mixed plate lunches and the aloha spirit as traditions and customs that make Hawaii unique.

But Sen. Matt Matsunaga (D, Palolo) argued that too much of a good thing isn't, especially for those with respiratory problems who suffer through the smoke on New Year's Eve.

"I think those who have respiratory problems don't want to spoil the fun for those who want to participate; they just want to be able to breath," Matsunaga said.

A Star-Bulletin/NBC Hawaii News 8 Poll last month showed registered voters are evenly split on the issue. Forty-eight percent of the registered voters surveyed support the Senate proposal for a ban on fireworks after New Year's Eve 1999. An extra 47 percent are opposed, and 5 percent are undecided.

Bullet Fireworks Scientific Poll Results
Bullet Fireworks Online Survey Results
>Bullet Hawaii Revised Statutes on Fireworks

Republicans in the Senate also have reservations about the bill.

Sen. Whitney Anderson (R, Kailua) wondered about the exceptions to the ban for religious or cultural purposes.

Anderson said he is Catholic but has grandchildren who are part Chinese. "How do I fit in if I wanted to get a permit?" he asked.

"I just wish that I'd have half as many calls protesting the problems of bureaucracy and taxation and regulation as I've had to ban fireworks," said Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai).

The state House Finance Committee is scheduled to vote today on a bill that restricts rather than bans fireworks.

The House bill would allow counties, through a permit system, to limit the amount of fireworks a person can legally purchase to 1,800 firecrackers. Counties could set a higher limit, but if they do not pass restrictions, the current law would remain in effect.

The Senate bill allows counties to decide if they want to opt out of a ban.

If the House bill passes the House next week as expected, it will likely set up a battle in conference committee later in the session as the two sides try to reconcile the differences.

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