Ban fizzles; bill now addresses proliferation of illegal fireworks

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Kaiana Baquiring, 4, picks out fireworks with her dad, Tramaine Baquiring, on Dec. 26, 2018, at the TNT Fireworks tents in the parking lot of Safeway in Hilo.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo Pacific Fireworks on Henry Street in Kailua-Kona was stocked Dec. 26, 2018, with pyrotechnics for New Year’s Eve.

  • Richard Creagan

A bill that would have banned nearly all consumer use of fireworks has gone up in smoke.

House Bill 497, which would have limited the use of consumer fireworks to three holidays and other cultural events, has passed through its sole committee in the House, although it is effectively a completely new bill, with its original text scrapped and replaced.

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The bill now would establish a task force to investigate how fireworks and other contraband are smuggled into the state.

Rep. Richard Creagan, D-Kona, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee that changed the bill, said controversial bills such as HB 497 are often changed to task force bills to help resolve contentions when there is “too much passion on both sides.”

Thus, rather than wade into an issue Creagan compared to debates about gun rights, the bill will instead address the proliferation of illegal fireworks in the state, which Creagan said is a significant issue.

“I was in Pahala for a pig roast around New Year’s, and there were aerial (fireworks) going off all over the place,” Creagan said. “I was surprised. It was clearly more of a problem than I thought. I thought we were too isolated for it to be an issue.”

Aerial fireworks are currently prohibited throughout the state, although, as Creagan noted, they still somehow make their way into the hands of Hawaii residents.

The bill requires that the members of the proposed task force include the chairpersons of the House and Senate committees on judiciary and public safety, the state attorney general, the director of public safety, the chairperson of the state fire council, all county police chiefs and two representatives of the fireworks industry.

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The bill successfully passed the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for third reading in the House. If successful there, it will cross over to the Senate.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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