OHIO — As legislation to make consumer-grade fireworks legal for residents to set off moves through the Ohio General Assembly, communities are voicing their concerns as fireworks are already being used two weeks ahead of July 4.
The Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 113 earlier this month and the House will consider the bill Wednesday, but city leaders are warning residents they're still illegal in the state.
Columbus City Council approved a plan Monday night to promote firework safety ahead of Independence Day and to let residents know what is legal for them to set off. The city goes by the four S's for what is allowable: snaps, smokes, sparklers and snakes.
City leaders and residents are voicing concerns that with the bill still moving through the Ohio Statehouse, people may believe consumer-grade fireworks, including firecrackers, Roman candles and mortars, are legal.
Cleveland is also warning residents not to set off illegal fireworks or shoot guns in celebration of the holiday. The city of Cleveland wrote in a press release that anybody who shoots off a gun within city limits will be arrested.
Both cities are urging residents to attend public firework displays instead of setting off their own.
Many displays are making a comeback this year after having to cancel in 2020 because of COVID-19. Cleveland's Light Up the Lake is set for Sunday, July 4. However, some won't go on as planned, including Columbus' Red, White & Boom. City leaders said permits weren't approved in time and hope to reschedule for sometime in September.
Current Ohio law states residents can legally buy fireworks in Ohio but they must be taken out of the state within 48 hours of purchasing. They also can't be set off within state lines.
SB 113, if approved by the House, would get rid of the 48-hour rule and would impose a 4% fee on consumer firework purchases. Lawmakers said these additional funds would go to firefighter training programs. It will have its first hearing in the House Wednesday.
However, the bill would only allow those fireworks to be set off on certain days: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day weekend, Juneteenth, July 3, 4 and 5, as well as the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays before and after Labor Day weekend and Dewali.
Co-sponsor of the bill Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, said the law currently in place has been largely ignored for years.
“For too long, Ohioans have been saddled with a consumer-grade fireworks law that was largely ignored and was all but unenforceable,” Johnson said after the Senate passed the bill on June 2.
Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, who is also co-sponsoring the bill, believes it will support Ohio businesses.
"The bill also has huge implications for northeast Ohio businesses, like Phantom Fireworks, who have employed hundreds of people in Youngstown for decades," Rulli said.