On the calendar today for a vote is a bill to reduce the restrictions with regard to ‘consumer fireworks.’ HB 110 seeks to expand the definition of consumer fireworks, as described in the bill, include:
“any small fireworks devices containing restricted amounts of pyrotechnic composition, designed primarily to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, that comply with the construction, chemical composition, and labeling regulations of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission”
Whatever that means.
Currently, Georgia is one of the few states in the Southeast to have such restrictive laws for consumer purposes which usually send Georgians across state borders for purchases. Many of our bordering states, including Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina, allow for the sale of consumer fireworks, with licensing procedures and oversight.
The bill does the following:
- Adequately defines ‘consumer fireworks’ and what is not a firework, such as model rockets and sparklers
- Outlines that consumer fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 and in any form other than a face-to-face sale
- 16 & 17 year-olds can possess consumer fireworks so long as they are aiding an adult to a nonprofit or licensed group
- Sale of consumer fireworks are lawful with license from Safety Fire Commissioner and the Fire Marshal is the enforcer
- Buildings/tents selling consumer fireworks must comply with NFPA 1124 (federal) standards
- To obtain a license as a corporation, you must pay a $5,000 license fee PER COMPANY, PER LOCATION. Renewals are $1,000 annually.
- Temporary licenses for nonprofit organizations are for 90 days and $200 per location
- You cannot obtain a license and sell fireworks unless:
- you’ve NOT been convicted of a felony (an interesting parameter, but in line with other states)
- Have liability and product insurance of at least $2 million
- Subject to excise tax
- Violations are civil penalties with $10,000 fine.
That’s a lot of government, and much is federal guidelines, but $5,000 is very steep for a corporation to pay a licensing fee. Alabama requires $2,000, while South Carolina permit permanent stands for just $200. Tennessee can require up to 4 different permits, but none exceed $350 so you’re still not looking at more than $1,400. The fee is paid to the Safety Fire Commissioner, but the bill as written doesn’t indicate where the money goes. (Perhaps transportation?!)
Does this expand the size and scope of government with a new agency or commission? No. But there isn’t much wiggle room to say it feels free.
Does it still largely prohibit certain groups and organizations from selling consumer fireworks in Georgia? Yes.
Will people still travel to other states for purchase? Probably not.
This firework legislation is indicative of everything we are facing under the Gold Dome: overreaching federal guidelines, special interest groups watering down bill language, restrictions on what should be the free market.
Here, we are starting with a ban, and this bill seeks to remove the band and impose strict oversight with several things Liberty-minded people oppose. But on the flip-side, the revenue will stay here. So what do you do? Do you take the inch even though you asked for a mile? Is some better than none? I guess it depends on how much you love the sound of freedom.