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Bill Lifting Florida’s Fireworks Ban May Not Be An Issue During 2014 Session

MGN Online

A bill seeking to legalize the sale of all fireworks in Florida may not be an issue during this year’s Legislative Session.

Currently, sparklers are legal in Florida. But any resident wanting to buy more explosive fireworks in the state must sign a waiver swearing they’ll use them for agricultural purposes. Those found in violation could face a first degree misdemeanor charge, and Fort Walton Beach Republican Representative Matt Gaetz says he finds that unfair.

“You know, I thought it was a little ironic that the Florida Legislature was over-regulating the device that we use to celebrate our liberty, and so, I filed legislation to get rid of the state’s prohibition on the sale of fireworks,” said Gaetz.

Gaetz’s bill gives counties and cities—rather than the state—the flexibility to regulate the sale and use of all fireworks. It also says buyers must be at least 16 years old.

His bill has the support of the Florida League of Cities, but not the Florida Fire Chiefs Association, which calls it a public safety risk. Fire chiefs worry about letting teenagers buy fireworks without parental supervision and disallowing fire departments from inspecting and approving fireworks displays.

Presented with those concerns, Gaetz says he’s tabling the issue for now, to see if all involved can come to their own solution.

“There are a number of stakeholders, like fire chiefs and fireworks manufacturers, that have said that if they’re given some time to work together, that they might be able to come up with a solution that gives people really more rights to buy what they want to buy, but at the same time, it doesn’t sacrifice public safety. So, we’re going to certainly give them that opportunity to work on that together, before we use the heavy hand of the Legislature to dictate an outcome,” he added.

Gaetz’s bill never received an official hearing after he put it on hold. Meanwhile, its Senate companion passed its first committee last month.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.