The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 18, 2022 1:00 am

Tighter fireworks law discussed

House panel weighs letting locals narrow use near July 4

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A new law being considered by the Indiana House could muffle the parade of firework cracks and booms around the Fourth of July.

The House Local Government Committee heard testimony last week about giving local governments the right to further limit the days that Hoosiers are allowed to set off the colorful – and loud – pyrotechnics.

It was set for a vote this week but has now been removed from the committee calendar.

Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, said in rural areas it isn't a problem, but in more suburban and urban areas, people are “inundated with explosions and booms for 11 days around the Fourth of July. These are not small pyrotechnics. They are large and loud.”

Current state law protects certain days statewide in which Hoosiers are allowed to use fireworks. For example, local governments can't ban fireworks between 5 p.m. and two hours after dusk on June 29 through July 9.

But House Bill 1053 would drop that down to July 3-5.

A Carmel police officer and city councilwoman said the fireworks put a strain on public safety services, which get constant complaint calls. Some of the more common issues have to do with needing to sleep for work the next day, the noise scaring pets and veterans having post-traumatic stress.

Testimony showed about 40 municipalities statewide have limited fireworks via ordinance.

Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, quoted John Adams as celebrating Independence Day with fireworks.

“One day – not 11 days,” Saunders said. “I have replaced my back screen door three times because it petrifies my dog.”

Steve Graves, executive director of the Indiana Fireworks Association, said the 11 days wasn't arbitrary. It was set so that when July 4 is on a Wednesday families can gather and celebrate either the weekend before or after. He also noted weather sometimes doesn't cooperate and there have to be backup days.

“This provision eliminates any flexibility,” he said. “Cities and towns haven't burned down because of the use of fireworks.”

Graves said cities will likely adopt further restrictions and cities are where the vast majority of revenue comes in. About $2.6 million was collected from a fireworks public safety fee in 2019 and 2020. That jumped to $5 million in 2021.

“I think consumers need to be protected ... from abusive local governments,” he said. “You have to give them some freedom and some rights.”

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