FRANKFORT — A bill that would allow people to legally detonate fireworks in Kentucky cleared the House on Monday.
Currently, some retailers sell fireworks that contain a mortar or that shoot from a tube by getting people to sign a waiver that says they will not ignite the fireworks on Kentucky soil. But that prohibition is rarely followed or enforced, particularly around the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.
House Bill 333 would clarify that it is legal to buy and detonate such fireworks in Kentucky.
Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, said the measure would help Kentucky recoup some of the money spent in Tennessee and surrounding states on fireworks that contain mortars or that shoot from a tube. One estimate showed a net gain of more than $1 million in sales, Bell said.
But more important, the bill also adds teeth to existing fire codes regarding the sale and storage of fireworks, said Bell, the bill's sponsor.
"This would help the fire marshal track who is selling what," Bell said.
The measure now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it must compete with dozens of other proposals for lawmakers' attention during the waning days of the legislative session. Monday was the 23rd day of the 30-working-day legislative session. Still, Bell said there has been some interest in the measure in the Senate.
The issue of better tracking fireworks sales and storage came to the forefront in Lexington when a building that housed Star Light & Magic, a special-effects supply store that sold pyrotechnics, caught fire in July 2009. At the time of the blaze, firefighters didn't know what type of explosives were in the building.
Under the bill, those who want to sell fireworks seasonally — around the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve — would be assessed a $250 fee. Those who want to sell fireworks year-round would pay $500.
That money would be used for education and other purposes, Bell said.
Those who want to sell smaller, novelty fireworks would pay a $25 fee, down from $50 that retailers now pay.
HB333 originally was scheduled for a vote Friday but was delayed after several lawmakers questioned whether cities, counties or other groups that have fireworks displays on the Fourth of July would have to pay a fee.
Bell said Monday that the bill would not change any of the rules pertaining to fireworks displays for cities and counties. They would not be assessed fees but must comply with state and federal regulations.
The House ultimately voted 92-6 to approve the legislation.