Reps want to extinguish fireworks bill
February 1, 2005
By JOHN R. PULLIAM of The Register-Mail
GALESBURG - State Reps. Don Moffitt and Mike Boland don't have anything against fireworks. But both lawmakers are urging Gov. Blagojevich to veto a bill they say would weaken legislation regulating Class C fireworks - Roman candles, bottle rockets and other powerful fireworks - used in private displays.
In a news conference in the truck bay at Galesburg's central fire station, Boland said the dangers are real. Requirements for sprinkler systems for indoor fireworks displays would be removed, as well as provisions requiring proper training, testing and proof of $1 million of liability insurance.
Boland, D-East Moline, said these are powerful fireworks.
"We're talking about explosive stuff that, if not used right, can have the explosive power of dynamite," Boland said. "This is very bad for public safety. Any Tom, Dick and Harry could use this in their back yard."
Boland said that the Class C fireworks cause 88 percent of the fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.
"The majority of fireworks injuries are to children under the age of 15," Boland said. "This is undoubtedly why the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians opposed this dreadful legislation."
Boland said the Society for the Prevention of Blindness also is advocating the governor exercise his veto.
Moffitt, R-Gilson, co-chairs the General Assembly's fire caucus. He joined Boland in objecting to the legislation being passed in the waning hours of the previous legislative session.
"Many of the people that voted for it were lame ducks," Moffitt said. He said the legislation is universally opposed by the fire service and, "I view it as a step backward."
Moffitt said if this is good legislation, which he does not believe it is, it should be "openly and thoroughly debated in the spring session."
House Bill 1000 was stopped in committee the Monday of the lame duck session, then came back on Tuesday and passed the House with one vote to spare.
"It may not have nine lives, but it certainly has several lives," Moffitt said.
Galesburg Fire Chief John Cratty said of the eight deaths caused by fireworks in 2003, six were caused by the more-powerful Class-C displays.
DeKalb Fire Chief Lanny Russell, president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association in 1991 and 1992, said the fireworks lobby has made this a long-time fight.
"This has been an ongoing battle for many, many years," Russell said. "We certainly urge the governor to veto it and bring back the legislation if it is such good policy."
Boland urged citizens to write or e-mail the governor and ask him to veto the legislation.
Boland said there is 30 days for the legislation to reach the governor's desk, then 60 days for the governor to decide whether to sign it into law or veto the bill.
Moffitt said some lawmakers, who for obvious reasons don't want their names used, have told him since the end of the session that they are sorry they voted for HB1000 and now hope the governor will veto it.
"I feel pretty confident," Boland said. "I can't imagine not vetoing this bill. It is so bad."
His only concern is the promise by lobbyists of millions of dollars of additional revenue for the financially-strapped state if the restrictions are lifted. He said those promises are hollow, calling them "some kind of frosting on a mud cake."
Contact John R. Pulliam at 343-7181, Ext. 215, or firstname.lastname@example.org