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Thursday, March 9, 2000



Hawaii State Seal

Panel offers compromise
fireworks plan

By Lori Tighe


To ban or not to ban fireworks. That is no longer the question in Hawaii, but how to safely control them.

The Community Fireworks Forum -- a statewide panel of major fireworks parties from vendors to enforcers -- say they have found common ground in a compromise bill proposal they believe has the best chance of succeeding.

Legislature 2000 The proposal offered for public opinion last night at the state Capital has three goals: Stop the illegal aerials coming in from ships at the pier; reduce noise and smoke; and toughen enforcement.

"We're trying to put bills together from extremes of enforcement wanting a total ban to vendors who want a free for all," said August Range, with the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association. He's been dealing with the fireworks controversy for 16 years.

"This is our best compromise. If we had a total ban, you'd still have to deal with the black market."

The proposal focuses on preventing illegal fireworks from coming into Hawaii. Now the aerials enter Hawaii legally, and only when they're sold are laws broken.

"We're calling for random inspections at the pier, stricter licensing requirements, raising licensing fees, requiring licenses and permits be obtained prior to shipping," said Cynthia Keolanui, with the Hawaiian Humane Society, who initiated the forum.

Pet owners asked the Humane Society to lead the charge in fireworks reform after an large number of animals ran away after the New Year's Eve fireworks display.

The Humane Society asked the American Lung Association to join it. Following them one by one were the fire department, police, vendors, customs, city prosecutor's office, shippers and more.

"It's good because you have everybody involved with taking care of the concerns of the community," said Dick Botti, representing fireworks retailers with Legislative Information Services of Hawaii.

"Will it work? Everybody agreed it would," he said. "We looked at what is practical, what will eliminate the black market, and what educational elements we need to provide. This hits everything."

The proposal also limits retail packaging to 2,600 firecrackers vs. the 16,300 that can be bought now in a single package. To buy the same bulk amount would cost three times more, said Jerry Farley, a fireworks industry representative.

The forum anticipates this will reduce total sales of fireworks 20 percent, and drop firecracker sales by a third, Farley said.

But members of the public calling for a total fireworks ban said their neighbors easily would pay the extra cost to set off the same amount of firecrackers.

Each year for the past several decades, smoke and noise from fireworks have gotten worse, said Suzanne Veller.

"I feel legislators last year dumped it," said Veller, referring to the firecracker reform effort. "This New Year's Eve was so dreadful. I've been here 41 years and I've seen it get worse and worse. Our legislators should pay attention to you," she told the forum.

The increase in fireworks could reflect the poor economic times, noted Anthony Chang, chairman of governmental affairs for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

"It's when you have a bad year, you buy a little more to settle differences," Chang said.

If any bill needs to be passed, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce favors this one.

"We recognize there are problems and (we) are willing to do our part. We believe you gotta spend it because your fortune depends on it," Chang said.

But fervent ban supporters, such as Gail Ellingson, said the time has come to banish this Hawaii tradition.

"This is assault and battery, not a tradition," she said. "I've lived here 16 years and because of this issue, I'm leaving the island. I'm not going to stand here and watch us blow up."

Get involved

You can track bills, hearings and other Legislature action via:

Bullet The Legislative Reference Bureau's public access room, state Capitol, room 401. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Phone: 587-0478; fax, 587-0793; TTY, 538-9670.

Neighbor islanders, call toll-free and enter ext. 70478 after the number:

Big Island, 974-4000; Maui,

984-2400; Kauai, 274-3141;

Molokai and Lanai, 468-4644.

Bullet The state's daily Internet listing of hearings:

Bullet The Legislature's automated bill report service: 586-7000.

Bullet The state's general Web page:

Bullet Our Web site:

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
Legislature Bills

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