Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 28, 2014

Lawmaker to push bill to legalize aerial fireworks

BLUEFIELD — It’s a Fourth of July ritual for many West Virginia families: Head for states where big fireworks are legal, bring them home, and fire them off. Some lawmakers are hoping to change this ritual by making the purchase and use of fireworks legal in the Mountain State.

There have been several past attempts to legalize fireworks in West Virginia. Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, introduced such a bill during this year’s session of the West Virginia Legislature, but it did not pass.

“I’ve been working on it for a few years, three to four years, and I’m not the first person to do it,” Hall said. “I’ve tried to pick it up and run with it, and we were hoping to get it passed this year. I thought we had a good shot at it this year, and it didn’t work out. I thought we had the perfect plan to get it passed and it still didn’t happen.”

The bill would have allowed the sale of fireworks that are available in neighboring states like North Carolina, Tennessee and Ohio.

“Without getting into specifics, it would have allowed the sale of all those big fireworks that go up in the sky and blow up,” Hall said. “Basically, the stuff you can go to other states and buy now, that would be illegal here.”

West Virginians wanting fireworks for the Fourth of July travel out of state every year to acquire them.

“People have been doing it in West Virginia for years,” Hall emphasized. “It’s already being done — why not make some money off of it?”

The bill included provisions for an additional tax or fee. Funds generated by fireworks sales would be used to help support the state’s fire departments and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, which would help enforce fireworks regulations, Hall said. The funds could also be used to help support organizations serving veterans.

“The general public at some point is going to have to decide whether they want the [fire protection] services,” Hall said. “If they want them, they’re going to have to pay for them. The state has limited funds and fire departments are expensive to run.”

Hall plans to reintroduce the bill next time the Legislature convenes.

“I guarantee it. We’ll have it in there again,” he said. “I think I’ve signed the paper to introduce it next year.”

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