Gov. Mike DeWine has a well-deserved reputation for promoting policies that support children’s health and safety.
So it came as no surprise recently when DeWine voiced opposition to legislation that would give Ohio one of the most liberal fireworks laws in the nation.
House Bill 253, which passed the Ohio House 78-17, would legalize discharge of so-called consumer grade fireworks seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Most states that allow consumer discharge of fireworks limit usage to certain times of the year, and limit the types of products that can be set off.
Only Alaska, Wyoming and Colorado have the type of wide-open laws that Ohio would adopt under House Bill 253.
Consumer-grade fireworks contain up to 500 milligrams of gunpowder. They include bottle rockets, missiles, Roman candles and firecrackers. The Ohio State Fire Officials Association says there is no safe way to use these fireworks.
In the past decade, the nation’s emergency rooms treated 102,600 patients with serious injuries from fireworks. Half were innocent bystanders. One-third were children.
Legislation similar to House Bill 253 has bounced around the Ohio General Assembly for two decades. Over all those years, it appears not one person unaffiliated with the fireworks industry has testified in favor of these bills. No one.
Standing in opposition have been Ohio’s hospitals, children’s hospitals, medical associations, veterans organizations, first responders and insurance organizations.
Industry supporters note the bill would give local governments the authority to set dates and times citizens could use fireworks, or ban discharge altogether.
What they fail to point out is that local governments would have no authority to restrict the types of devices that could be discharged, prohibit discharge near critical infrastructure, farms or hospitals, or enact educational requirements or permitting.
As House Bill 253 heads to the Senate, DeWine was asked his thoughts on it. "I side with the children’s hospitals and safety folks who predict that injuries, to children specifically, would increase. I am not in favor of this bill and that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me very well," he replied.
The Senate should bury House Bill 253. If it fails this common-sense test, The Dispatch would encourage DeWine to veto it. The vast majority of Ohioans would appreciate it.
— Columbus Dispatch