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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 23, 2010

Say moves bill giving counties power to ban fireworks

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

State House Speaker Calvin Say stepped in yesterday and signed an agreement to give counties the option to ban fireworks, sending the bill to the state House and Senate floor for final votes.

The agreement reached Wednesday by House and Senate negotiators was at risk of collapsing because two of the three House chairmen involved in the talks refused to sign off on the deal. Conference committee rules require a majority of chairmen from each chamber to attest to such agreements.

"My signing of the conference committee report attests to the action of the committee to approve the fireworks bill. It reflects the will of a majority of the committee to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote," Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Pālolo Valley, Wilhelmina Rise), said in a statement.

Say used his authority as speaker to sign for state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-41st (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), one of the holdouts. State Rep. Joseph Souki, D-8th (Wailuku, Waihe'e, Waiehu), also had refused to sign, arguing that the state should not delegate fireworks regulation to the counties.

The bill would give counties the discretion to adopt stronger fireworks restrictions than found in state law. Consumer fireworks are allowed on New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year's Day and the Fourth of July under a state law passed in 1994 that brought uniformity to different county regulations.

The bill also would create a task force to study illegal fireworks.

State Sen. Will Espero, D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Waipahu), who wanted a statewide ban on fireworks, said Say did the right thing.

"It tells the community that the Legislature did listen and hear their concerns," he said of complaints by residents of excessive fireworks.

"Some people may not be happy with our actions, but it's important that, due to all the illegal activity, something be done from our level," Espero said.

Jerry Farley of TNT Fireworks, a national supplier, said giving counties the option to adopt tougher restrictions would not solve the problem, which he believes is the lack of enforcement of state law.

"Instead of gaining control of the problem, they will lose more control of the problem," he said.