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Gov. Mike DeWine recently signed HB172, fireworks legislation that represents a compromise between the Legislature and the governor’s office. What’s in the bill when it comes to personal firework displays, safety precautions and property owners? Ohio Farm Bureau’s policy counsel Leah Curtis covers it all in this Legal with Leah.
Listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners.
Ty Higgins [00:00:00] Governor DeWine recently signed House Bill 172. That’s fireworks legislation that represents a compromise between the Legislature and the governor’s office. To talk more about this is Leah Curtis, policy counsel with Ohio Farm Bureau. How are you doing?
Leah Curtis [00:00:13] I’m good. How are you?
Ty Higgins [00:00:14] Doing OK. So why did this legislation occur?
Leah Curtis [00:00:17] So for a number of years, we’ve had legislation that was attempting to legalize in some way or another fireworks for consumers to use. And you know, admittedly, Ohioans have always been under this legal scheme where you kind of lie, because you buy fireworks and then you sign this paper that says you’re going to remove them from the state within 48 hours. We all know, if we live in our truth, that that’s not happening for most people that are buying them. And so there were a lot of legislators, there’s a lot of people who really criticize that ‘force to lie law’ and wanted to come up with some sort of remedy that kind of recognizes both sides of the issue. There’s the safety issue on the one side. But then there’s the concern on the other side that everybody’s doing it. And a lot of other states have legalized it already. And so maybe it would be safer if we put in some legalization but put some guardrails on it.
Ty Higgins [00:01:08] You call it a lie. I call it a fib.
Leah Curtis [00:01:10] Or just semantics.
Ty Higgins [00:01:11] Yes, for sure. What’s in this bill?
Leah Curtis [00:01:13] So this is effective on July 1, 2022. So don’t run out and do this right yet. But it allows individuals to buy and possess consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio. So you no longer are going to sign that paper that says, I’m going to transport out in 48 hours. You can possess them and discharge them on your own property on certain days. So this isn’t a free for all but New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day weekend, Juneteenth, July 3, 4 and 5, and then the weekends around Labor Day, Diwali and New Year’s Eve. Those are the days that will be legal to let off those consumer-grade fireworks. One caveat is, though, that your local governments can make the choice to restrict dates and times or to ban fireworks altogether within their jurisdiction. So it’s something that your commissioners, your city council, your township could take an action on. It also prohibits the discharge of fireworks whenever someone is in possession or under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, or if they’re on the property of another person without that property owner’s permission. So this does not change the fact that trespassing is trespassing; it’s still trespassing even when you have fireworks. There’s certainly no implication that you could do this on somebody else’s property without permission.
Ty Higgins [00:02:24] This bill also includes important safety provisions.
Leah Curtis [00:02:27] Sure, which is, of course, the big concern there with fireworks. So an Ohio Fire Code Rule Recommendation Committee will be made with the fire marshal’s office. So they will kind of come up with some rules and guardrails about how we can safely sell these, how we can safely operate and use them. The fire marshal is going to make those rules. They will go through that regular notice and comment procedure. And then there will be a 4% fee on all consumer-grade fireworks. And that money is going to go to firefighter training and other enforcement and regulation activities to make sure that we have adequate funding for those things.
Ty Higgins [00:02:59] And finally, always concerns about property owners and their rights when it comes to using fireworks. What’s in it for them?
Leah Curtis [00:03:07] So we certainly hear concerns about property owners all the time about neighbors letting off fireworks. So remember that it’s still illegal and it always has been for somebody to let off fireworks on your property without your permission. That is still trespassing, and we know that trespassing can be difficult to deal with. Our advice is always to call your law enforcement. Don’t just let it go. Make that report so that there is a paper trail at least. It’s going to be very specific as to when fireworks are going to be able to be used. So if it’s not one of those dates, then that is an enforcement concern. You can also consider, away from those holidays, don’t do it on July 3, but maybe on March 14, talk with your local officials or your local law enforcement about your concerns. Let them know why it is a concern. If you have an issue with livestock getting out because fireworks are going off around you, your law enforcement will probably be sympathetic to that issue, but you got to let them know. They may not know that that’s the problem. They may think you just are cranky about the noise, but they need to know those larger implications. So take some time, make some friends and some relationships. So that way people understand what you’re going through.
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