February 26, 2016 7:28 PM
On Friday, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 369, which creates new restrictions and clarifies existing language on the personal use of fireworks. The bill passed by a vote of 50 to 1 and was sponsored by Senator Jeff Mullis (R-53). It was preceded by House Bill 110, passed during the 2015 legislative session, allowing the initial sale and use of consumer fireworks in Georgia. Mullis released this statement on the new legislation:
The legislation passed last year by the Georgia General Assembly was never meant to be a burden on neighborhoods or law enforcement officials, and after House Bill 110 was enacted, it quickly became clear that we needed to add definitions and restrictions. I’d like to thank the law enforcement agencies, Georgia citizens and local governments that worked with legislators to improve and clarify these regulations.
Senate Bill 369 revises the locations where consumer fireworks may be ignited, prohibiting use near public air use facilities, as well as in parks, historical sites, and recreational areas owned by a county, municipality, or the State of Georgia. One-time permits may be applied for under certain conditions. Public fireworks displays are required to have a valid license issued by the Safety Fire Commissioner.
It also creates new requirements for the licensing of firework distributors. Applications must include the property where the fireworks will be sold and if the property is owned, leased, or under rental agreement. It also changes the initial $5,000 fee for all stores in a retail chain to a base fee of $1,000, with an additional $250 for each store location. Applicants must be open to the public for at least 45 days prior to July 4th or December 31st in order to apply, and renewals are subject to an annual base fee of $1,000 and an additional $100 for each store location. The legislation establishes criminal penalties for violating sale provisions and provides the Safety Fire Commissioner with oversight authority. This includes the enforcement of fines and revocation of sale licenses.
The bill creates new time periods for firework use as well. This is any day between 10:00 AM and 10:00 PM, and also any day between 10:01 PM and midnight if the use does not violate an existing noise ordinance. On December 31st, January 1st, and July 3rd and 4th, fireworks may be used between 10:01 PM and 11:59 PM, as well as between midnight and 1:00 PM on January 1st. The governor would be allowed to set additional regulations on the use of consumer fireworks in times when a declaration of drought is issued, except it would not apply on December 31st, January 1st, or July 3rd and 4th. It would be officially lifted when the declaration of drought ends.
Senate Bill 369 will now transfer to the Georgia House of Representatives for consideration.