Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 2, 2013

Revenue spark — Time to legalize fireworks in W.Va.

When the Fourth of July and other events appear on the calendar, many West Virginians head south to the Carolinas or Tennessee or north to Ohio so they can stock up on a bright and explosive holiday staple — exploding fireworks.

State law now prohibits fireworks like skyrockets and firecrackers. The only holiday incendiaries now available in the Mountain State and the neighboring Commonwealth of Virginia are items such as sparklers and fireworks fountains. Despite these restrictions, residents in both Virginias go south, acquire the fireworks they desire, and come home to light them up. The money they spent to buy those rockets stays in the southern states or Ohio where they could legally spend their cash on explosive novelties.

Freshman Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, in the West Virginia Legislature recently offered a bill that would allow the state’s citizens to buy and fire off Roman candles, rockets, firecrackers, shells and cakes. Other legislators have introduced similar bills during past sessions, and Hall’s bill is just as good an idea.

Hall pointed out that his neighbors light up fireworks. The crackle and flashes of fireworks are common sights and sounds when the Fourth of July draws near. Fireworks are even fired off well after Independence Day.

He also reminded his fellow lawmakers and the public that fireworks are not a new phenomena in West Virginia. People in this state have been importing fireworks from other states and firing them for years. Prohibitions against rockets and other fireworks have not stopped the Mountain State’s residents from acquiring them and using them.

Clifford Rotz, a retired chemical engineer who helped Hall draft the proposed legislation, has maintained that the use of fireworks by individuals has become increasingly safer over the years, and he maintains that national statistics bear this out.

Fireworks are dangerous when they are used irresponsibly. Children should not be allowed to handle them without adult supervision, and safety measures should be taken to ensure that fireworks do not ignite a structure fire or light a fire in the state’s heavily wooded terrain. The use of fireworks should be regulated.

However, if safety measures are taken, fireworks should be legal in West Virginia. A 6 percent sales tax on fireworks would bring new revenue to the state’s tax coffers, plus the legislation could add a “fireworks safety fee.” If the taxes stay at a rate that makes West Virginia’s fireworks competitive with those sold in other states, fireworks enthusiasts will not feel compelled to travel hundreds of miles for their supplies. That means more money would be spent locally, thus staying in local economies.

The new bill legalizing exploding fireworks in West Virginia is worth consideration. Fireworks are here already, so the state should benefit financially from the taxes generated from fireworks sales. If Mountaineers are willing to enjoy fireworks responsibly, there is no reason why they should have to leave home to buy them. The bill could be a win-win for the state and the people who love fireworks with their Fourth of July.


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