BEATRICE – A Nebraska State senator wants to expand the types of fireworks that can be sold in the state.
Senator Julie Slama’s LB 152 was named a Speaker Priority bill recently. The measure would align the consumer fireworks definition with federal standards. Slama said Nebraska’s consumer fireworks definition hurts the economy.
"Fireworks sales in Missouri topped $51 million in 2019, while Nebraska fireworks sales were near $6.6 million in the same year. Thousands of Nebraskans are willing to travel out of state to get access to fireworks that they cannot purchase at home. The desire for currently illegal fireworks like bottle rockets, directly impedes our econony and hurts our local fireworks stands." Missouri has more than three times Nebraska’s population.
Slama contends there’s no evidence to show that states with a federal definition of consumer fireworks have a higher incidence of injuries than Nebraska. She said her bill also doesn’t supersede local ordinances. Senator Carol Blood is concerned about broadening the ability to get fireworks the state has not traditionally had.
"What we're basically saying and what I hear being said is that we're , crossing over into Missouri to get some of this anyway so why aren't we making any money off of it? Well gosh, that argument didn't work with the casinos, with some of you....so which is it? Do we allow people to cross the border and do some of the things we don't agree with?"
Blood said the bill could also have the unintended consequence of raising insurance costs, from fireworks-related fires.
"It's going to eliminate the current restriction on rockets mounted to a sticker wire, nighttime parachutes, fireworks shot into the air....and after coming to the ground...that is the issue. Because it causes automatic ignition due to sufficient temperature. Fireworks that contain more than fifty milligrams of explosive composition fit that ticket. I agree with the harmonizing part of the bill...but I don't know if I agree with the fact that since people can go across state lines and buy this, that we need to amend our state statute to build our economy."
Slama said the statistical difference in fireworks hazards in states that adopt the federal consumer definition and Nebraska, is insignificant.
"Overall, we don't see much of a statistically significant difference in the amount of injuries or claims filed in states that legalize up to the federal level, versus our state which has a slightly more restrictive view of what is a consumer firework, and what isn't."
Senator Megan Hunt feels the bill would definitely lead to more suffering in terms of injuries.
"A lot of you talk about your constituents traveling to Missouri to get fireworks. Well, a lot of your constituents are also traveling to Colorado to get cannabis. But, we're not having a serious conversation about the economic benefits of cannabis. No, we're talking about saving our economy by making sure fireworks stands stay in business for like a few more days, in July." Hunt says she wishes lawmakers would think bigger about how we can grow Nebraska and raise the quality of life of people who are suffering.
Slama’s fireworks bill did advance to the second round of consideration, on a vote of 40-3.