Push to expand firework sales returns to state Legislature

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ST. PAUL — It’s spring in Minnesota, which means baseball is back, flowers are blooming and the perennial debate over expanding firework sales has returned.

The Minnesota House voted 73-56 on Monday to allow Minnesota residents to be able to buy “aerial and audible” fireworks — such as firecrackers and bottle rockets — about five weeks out of the year, rather than just sparklers or other small fireworks.

Rep. Jason Rarick, a Pine City Republican who is leading the push, said residents are already using such fireworks and that Minnesota companies — and the state — are losing millions of dollars to border states by prohibiting larger fireworks.

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“Regardless of the outcome of this bill, this summer there will be fireworks used in Minnesota,” he said, sporting a fireworks-themed tie. “It is my wish that our state can collect the revenue while also allowing Minnesotans to enjoy fireworks.”

Rarick’s measure would allow local governments to decide whether they want to allow more firework sales. He said the flexibility could make the measure more appealing to some who have opposed it in the past, including Gov. Mark Dayton.

Rarick’s measure has bipartisan support, but any expansion of fireworks would require plenty of legislative muscle to get past Dayton, who vetoed a similar measure in 2012. Last week, the Democratic governor made clear his opposition hasn’t softened.

“If somebody gets fireworks and blows off their own arm, or blows off a child’s arm standing nearby … I want the state of Minnesota” to take a strong stance that those explosives aren’t allowed, Dayton said.

Several lawmakers also voiced their concern Monday while debating the measure in the House.

Rep. Erik Simonson, a Duluth Democrat and a firefighter, said allowing more fireworks just because people are already using them illegally is not a good reason to legalize them. He rejected the notion that the state can’t address potential harm to Minnesota residents through legislation.