Many Georgians took advantage of a new fireworks law during their Independence Day celebrations, blasting fireworks into the night, but some residents and local governing officials believe the new law is too broad and overreaching.
“The law infringes on the rights of city governments to enforce their noise ordinances,” said Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz, who brought up the issue during a City Council meeting Monday. “It allows residents to shoot fireworks until midnight 365 days a year, which is preposterous.”
House Bill 110 legalized the sale, possession and use of explosive devices previously outlawed by lawmakers decades ago. The law states that residents may use fireworks from 10 a.m. to midnight any day; on Jan. 1, July 3 and 4, and Dec. 31 the hours are extended to 2 a.m.
Stankiewicz said that he planned to contact local representatives and express the city’s displeasure with the law’s broad nature.
“I voted against this legislation,” state Rep. Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville) of local District 132 told the Daily News on Wednesday. “The law does substantially restrict and pre-empt a local government in areas of decision-making and enforcement that are better handled at the local level. I believe that home rule and local control are more appropriate for handling the regulation of noise, litter and permitted hours of use of fireworks.”
State Rep. Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) of local District 69 supported the measure when it came up for a vote in the House.
“I have received some complaints, and I know the city has also,” Nix told the Daily News. “I don’t recall this issue of hours of use being raised by local governments while this legislation was being debated, but it may be something we need to revisit to allow them to develop appropriate local ordinances.”
Under the new state law, residents can freely shoot fireworks any day of the year, even in crowded neighborhoods, during the permitted hours. The only restrictions on where fireworks can be set off is near gas stations and nuclear facilities.
According to LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, the problem is not with fireworks themselves, but with the law’s restrictive nature toward local governing bodies.
“I wish local communities had the power to decide what time fireworks can be shot and so on,” Thornton said. “That power was not given to us, it was taken away in this law.”
Donny Karr is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at [email protected] or 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.