Fireworks (The Literal Kind)

The Georgia Legislature reconvenes this morning to hurtle down the highway to Sine Die, and when they do, HB 727 will likely be back on the House floor. It’s the latest fireworks bill, and it promises to return some control and authority on fireworks to county and municipal governments – and frankly, it’s about time, since while I am not certain whether any of the sponsors of the original legislation received many midnight phone calls from angry constituents whose neighbors lit up the night like the 4th of July just about any time they pleased, I know that I did, and my constituents were not amused when I told them that there wasn’t a blessed thing the city could do to encourage their neighbors to keep their blazing, booming liberty to themselves.*

Under the current legislation, the only place you can’t detonate fireworks is within 100 yards of a nuclear power plant or a gas station. HB 727 adds restrictions to locations including parks, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and electrical power plants – but interestingly, detonating them around a school would remain perfectly legal (so take note, GeorgiaPol readers who also happen to be juvenile delinquents; the intersection of those populations is surely a very special Venn diagram).

I wrote about the current law’s drawbacks last summer, and I’m pleased that the new legislation recognizes that while law-abiding businesses should have every right to operate in Georgia, county and municipal governments should have the ability to reasonably regulate businesses that operate within their jurisdictions through ordinances and, yes, through restricted uses within zoning districts. Furthermore, if a community overwhelmingly wants to limit the dates and hours that their residents can blow stuff up, the state should not prohibit any local authority from setting and enforcing these limits.

My favorite part of HB 727 is that it includes provisions for “temporary consumer sales facilities” – they’re what are generally referred to as “tents.” My community has two permanent fireworks stores, and I’d prefer a dozen temporary tents – tents that my city can regulate through local ordinances – in their place any day of the week. Here’s why: tents are ephemeral. They come, they go, fireworks go boom, life rolls on. Permanent stores are precisely that – one in my community has a multi-decade lease – and I believe (read: this is my opinion) that the economic revitalization that is happening along that particular corridor will be hindered by the presence of that store. I do not think that a seasonal, temporary retailer would have that same negative effect.

Unfortunately, the version of the bill that cleared the Senate and is set to return to the House is stripped of the provisions that allow tents. I hope the House sees fit to restore those provisions, along with ensuring that communities, and not the General Assembly, can work with their residents to determine how – or whether – they want to place some boundaries on how and when things can go boom in their neighborhoods.

Since the beginning of the fireworks conversation in Georgia, both with members of the General Assembly and through internet comment threads, there seems to be this implicit assertion that if I am the kind of person who deigns to live in a community where my home is within egg-borrowing distance from a neighbor, I somehow forfeit any expectation that my neighbor should hold back on the Black Cats and M-1000s whenever he feels like a pyrotechnic celebration. It’s not always overt, but I think there’s definitely a streak of rural Georgia versus urban/suburban Georgia near the core of this debate.

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Pete Gibbons
Pete Gibbons

You were definitely not alone in receiving angry calls/texts/messages in regards to the times allowed for fireworks usage.

LoyaltyIsMyHonor
LoyaltyIsMyHonor

Nice write up Teri and I too would prefer temporary tents. I was surprised to see the store on Spring Road and not sure how selling fireworks can be a viable business enterprise year-round. I mean, aside from the the Fourth of July and New Years, when else do people feel compelled to buy fireworks?

blakeage80
blakeage80

The one on Atlanta Hwy in Athens is occupied year round, but closed most of the time except around those holidays. They rake it in for 3 months out of the year and close down. I just wish they’d get a real sign instead of the banner strung across the building.

elfiii
elfiii

@ Teri – It’s not always overt, but I think there’s definitely a streak of rural Georgia versus urban/suburban Georgia near the core of this debate.

Clearly so and all the more reason why all of these type matters should be decided at the local level rather than the state level, provided of course local governments don’t overstep their authority. It’s a lot easier to replace an intractable county commissioner or city councilor than it is to fight the state in court.

chefdavid
chefdavid

This is why I live out in the country so I don’t have to deal with all these crazy regulations. I think it should be left up to locals. And if you are going to allow allow it. Don’t put in there you can have tents or not. It would be nice for me to be able to buy in Georgia. But As my county goes I doubt any would be sold unless tents are available. But that’s OK we will just go to South Pittsburg and get them like we do now the revenue will be lost to another… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

So while all these fireworks were going on did they slip by that minimum commish for health insurance sales folks, raises in pensions and other self or crony legislation ?

rickday
rickday

Hi guys, I work for one of the two major fireworks companies in GA as regional mgr of temporary Facilities (tents and stands). We work with not for profits to run our stand program during the limited selling season of 6/23 – 7/5. The program currently allows 2 temp locations per distributorship plus 2 for each brick and mortar store licensed in the state. One stand has to be in the same county as the store, another can be a distance (75 miles) from that counties border. So the number of stands are limited by the number of stores. There… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Guess beer distributors and car dealers aren’t the only friends our legislators have.