Steube wants to end ban on Florida fireworks sales


Many already use a loophole to get around the decades-old prohibition.

Sarasota Sen. Greg Steube is again trying to light the fuse on a proposal to legalize fireworks sales to the general public in Florida.

The Republican legislator’s proposal (SB 198) filed this week would end a decades-old prohibition on fireworks sales.

Many people have gotten around the ban by using loopholes that allow the purchase of fireworks for such things as frightening birds for agriculture-related purposes.

Lawmakers have unsuccessfully pushed to end the prohibition for years.

Steube filed the bill for the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January. He proposed an identical measure during the 2017 session, but it was not heard in committee.

The legislation is very similar to bills filed for the 2014 session by then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican. That bill also died in committee.

Retail sales of fireworks are only are allowed only because of a 60-year-old loophole in the law — one of a kind nationally — that allows “fireworks … to be used solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.”

Floridians who have bought fireworks from a roadside tent through the years are usually asked to sign a form acknowledging the buyer falls under an agricultural, fisheries or other exemption. Florida law also says that fireworks can be used for “signal purposes or illumination” of a railroad or quarry, “for signal or ceremonial purposes in athletics or sports, or for use by military organizations.”

Fireworks vendors are not responsible under the rules for verifying buyers actually intend to use them for some other than a celebratory purpose.

Critics have fought the removal of the ban over worries about potential injuries and the cacophony of explosions that the fireworks create, especially on holidays such as the recent Fourth of July.

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

 


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