Sparklers on the verge of being legal
By Patrick Howe
ST. PAUL -- This Independence Day, adults in Minnesota will probably be free to celebrate by lighting sparklers, dropping drop pops and exploding noisemakers. Legally.
Gov. Jesse Ventura's spokesman says the governor plans to sign a bill legalizing novelty fireworks in the state for the first time in six decades. Ventura only wishes it went further, said John Wodele.
The House and Senate voted Monday to send the bill to him despite the warnings of colleagues who said it will lead to more burns to children and more fires.
Firefighters also fought the measure, circulating a letter that said the bill would legalize more than the limited items supporters say.
"Let's not open this giant door to what we all know is coming next year, and that's the full legalization of all fireworks," said Rep. Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis.
But supporters said it's time for Minnesota to join the 41 other states that allow at least novelty fireworks.
"It's absolutely disingenuous for Minnesotans to act like they don't already use sparklers in this state," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.
Fireworks have been illegal in Minnesota since 1941. For many, early July wouldn't be complete without a trek across the state border. Several temporary businesses do a brisk business selling bottle rockets, smoke bombs and roman candles to Minnesotans.
The bill had its toughest fight in the Senate, which initially rejected the bill because of an unrelated provision.
It passed this time 34-30, surprising some opponents. In the House, which already passed a bill legalizing more powerful fireworks, it passed easily.
"There's no rockets red glare, there's no bombs bursting in air anymore," is how Rep. Mark Holsten, R-Stillwater, explained the changes to colleagues.
To legalize the novelty items, the bill simply redefines the definition of fireworks, which are banned, to not include glow worms, sparklers, and select other non-aerial items.
The novelty items would still be prohibited on public property, including state parks. Store clerks would be required to verify that buyers are over 18.