(WKBN) – Ohio is only one of two states where consumer fireworks are illegal, but Wednesday in Columbus, both the Ohio House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to change that.
It passed the Senate 26 to 5. The House then approved it 72 to 23.
Now, it heads to the governor, and a spokesperson indicates he will sign the bill.
Wednesday evening, we talked with executives of Phantom Fireworks and sponsors of the bill about the big step and how they got to this point with the state.
When Bruce Zoldan started Phantom Fireworks in the Mahoning Valley almost 50 years ago, getting a law allowing citizens to use them in the state was already on his list of to-dos.
“I can remember when I was going to YSU and started this business out of the trunk of my mother’s car and my college professor Harry Meshel, we worked hand in hand to help pass a bill that allowed wholesalers to distribute fireworks but we could not get a retail law that allowed citizens to use it. We hoped one day that would happen,” Zoldan said.
After years of effort, that hope may become reality in the next two weeks.
“We’re at a point now that Ohio is one of two states in the entire country that doesn’t permit the use of consumer fireworks whatsoever. So 45 years ago when we started this company, Ohio was kinda on the cutting edge of consumer fireworks laws. Now where we are in 2021, we’re way in the back of the back,” said Dan Peart, a spokesman for Phantom Fireworks.
After the governor’s veto, changes were made to the bill in hopes of getting it passed. One change is the allowed size of a fireworks showroom.
“Showrooms are allowed to be 5,000 square feet in the bill that the governor vetoed back in July. We doubled that up to 10,000 square feet. Again, no other state in the country that has a limit on that period, so we sought to double that. The compromise is we backed that down to 7,500 square feet, and then we also have an enhanced sprinkler system that comes into play if you reach a certain size,” Peart said.
The other change made was to the days fireworks would be allowed.
“The question I like to ask is, ‘What does your neighborhood sound like on the 4th of July?'” Peart asked.
With this bill, you could legally set off fireworks around the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. You can also set them off over Memorial and Labor Day weekends and on Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth and the Lunar New Year.
However, local governments could still ban fireworks or place restrictions on when they can be set off.
“What’s more American than fireworks, right? Anybody who drives around on the 4th can see fireworks going off. It’s not properly regulated so instead, why don’t we legalize and pick specific days?” asked state Representative Al Cutrona.
There would be a 4 percent fee on fireworks sales to pay for firefighter training — less than both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Legalizing fireworks would mean an increase in production, which would lead to a shot in the arm for the Valley and the state economically.
“We have a couple hundred employees here in town and we expect those numbers to grow. I can’t tell you exactly how many additional jobs this will create but it certainly will create jobs at our distribution center as well as our corporate headquarters,” Zoldan said. “We still need one more signature to make it legal. I think that’s going to happen this time but once that signature is on the bill, I’ll be able to pop open a bottle of champagne.”
Once the bill reaches the governor’s desk, he will have 10 days to sign it. If he does, it could take effect on July 1, right before the 4th of July.