Hanabusa likely
to kill fireworks bill

With no increase, permit prices
will now likely remain at $25

By Pat Omandam

The cost of a fireworks permit will likely remain the same -- $25 -- for now after a key state senator said she will kill a bill that doubles the fee to $50 and requires a permit to set off unregulated novelty items such as sparklers and cones.

Legislature 2003

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Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, said yesterday the hot-button issue of fireworks should be set aside during this Legislature, given the House and the Senate are at odds over the proposed changes to the permit fee found in House Bill 899, SD1.

The Senate has proposed raising the fee to $50, while the House had approved dropping it to $10.

"It seems like what we have now would be the compromise position anyway," Hanabusa said. "So, I don't see any reason why we should continue to debate this issue if we're at such odds with each other."

The House approved lowering the fee to "something more reasonable" last month, said Rep. Eric Hamakawa (D, South Hilo-Kurtistown), House Judiciary chairman.

Hamakawa, in his committee report, said the cost of a fireworks permit was "extraordinarily high" and only serves to punish fireworks users.

But state Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu), in his Transportation, Military Affairs and Government Operations committee report Friday, said fireworks continue to be a problem and that tougher regulation is necessary, despite the effectiveness of the current law.

"So-called novelty fireworks produce prodigious amounts of noise and smoke, and your committee finds that it is appropriate to require a permit to purchase novelty fireworks," he said.

Kawamoto proposed limiting firecracker permits to one per household, doubling the fee to $50 and requiring a permit to set off novelty items.

Over the past three years the law has been in place, police and fire officials report the permit system has been successful in reducing the amount of fireworks-related property loss and personal injuries.

Statistics show the number of fireworks-related calls on Oahu dropped to 745 in 2002 from 2,595 in 1999. Property losses statewide to fireworks was $1,700 in 2002, down from $14,300 in 1999.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki) said yesterday the fireworks issue was not a priority for the caucus. He said both Kawamoto and Hamakawa are not likely to budge from their positions.

Others, like Brian Schatz (D, Makiki), House Economic Development Committee chairman, said the law has proved effective and should remain in place.

"If something works, we should leave it alone," Schatz said.

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