More fizzle than boom in new law
The windows rattled for only a couple of hours Monday night. Maybe the chill and damp of a New Year’s Eve midnight takes some of the thrill out of blasting fireworks all day and all night. That hour or so of dog-disturbing and sleep-stealing rumble and boom will go on for days and weeks in July in celebration of our nation’s independence and one of our Legislature’s dumbest decisions ever.
Amazingly, legislators in the just-ended lame duck session fixed the state’s fireworks excesses — a little. The bill passed and signed by the governor hardly manages to stuff the genie back into the bottle.
The new law allows local governments to restrict the days and times that enthusiasts can burn money and fray nerves by launching endless volleys of “consumer grade” fireworks into the night sky.
The Michigan Fireworks Safety Act — that is quite a euphemism for what it unleashed — became law in 2011, allowing consumers to set off fireworks that leave the ground, make loud noises or both. Before then, Michiganders were essentially limited to sparklers. The 2011 act put mortars, rockets, roman candles and firecrackers in their hands, and July hasn’t been the same since.
An amendment to the bill passed soon after restricted the bombardment to 30 days a year, national holidays and the days before and after them, and to the hours between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m.
The new law allows municipalities to set local rules that send fireworks fans to bed early, by 11:30 most days. And it grants them the power to limit legal days to just 12. Forget celebrating Presidents Day with three days of boom and flash.
But it also prevents any restrictions on certain days, because fireworks have become big business in Michigan and an important revenue stream for the state. That’s why Lansing will never admit the 2011 law was a mistake.
And don’t celebrate the lame duck session’s shift toward reasonable restrictions and local control yet.
The Black Cat brand firecrackers are out of the bag. And a local ordinance in Grant Township or Port Huron is not going to put it back.
Whatever the law said last summer, many neighborhoods suffered through more than 30 days of fireworks during July alone. Restrictions in the law are unenforced and probably unenforceable. Violators don’t wait for a cop to pull into the driveway before lighting off a string of firecrackers at 3 a.m.
Local governments and police departments don’t have the resources to find, stop and cite even a little of the fireworks mayhem unleashed on our summer nights. We’ll be surprised if this new law snuffs out a single midnight pop.
— Times Herald (Port Huron)