Freeman introduces bill aimed to address fireworks

HARRISBURG, June 17 - In an effort to address the concern of residents about the increased use of fireworks being discharged, state Rep. Robert Freeman introduced legislation that would give municipalities more authority to regulate the use of fireworks and would increase penalties for violating those regulations.

“With the arrival of the summer months and Independence Day close at hand there is once again a growing concern on the part of residents regarding the use of consumer fireworks. Last summer we witnessed widespread abuse of the use of fireworks in many residential neighborhoods that proved very disruptive to people’s lives and undermined their quality of life by having to endure the discharge of such fireworks throughout the day and late into the night,” Freeman said. “This disruptive behavior is unacceptable and must be reined in. 

“My proposal would provide local governments with the authority to pass local ordinances to better regulate the use of fireworks and to impose substantial penalties for the violation of those local ordinances,” Freeman said.

Under Freeman’s bill (H.B. 1628) a municipality could enact an ordinance regulating the use of consumer fireworks, provided that the ordinance does not conflict with state law. The bill would limit the use of fireworks to between 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with extended hours for certain holidays.

Additionally, the legislation would require each consumer fireworks purchase to include a notification that provides the conditions, prohibitions and limitations for using fireworks.

Those who violate the municipal regulations would face increased penalties under Freeman’s bill. A first conviction would be a summary offense and a fine between $100 and $500. A subsequent offense committed within one year of a prior conviction would be a third-degree misdemeanor and a fine between $500 and $1,000.

According to the 2017 law, fireworks cannot be discharged:

  • on public or private property without express permission of the property owner.
  • from, within or toward a motor vehicle or building.
  • within 150 feet of an occupied structure, regardless if a person is present.
  • while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or another drug.

"We need to give local governments the ability to deal with this disruptive behavior and impose substantial penalties for violating local ordinances. My proposed legislation will give them that option," Freeman said.

Freeman, who voted against the 2017 state law that allows consumers, 18 or older, to purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks is also co-sponsoring House Bill 988 that would outright repeal the 2017 fireworks law, reverting to what was previously permitted in Pennsylvania.

“One of the reasons I opposed making these fireworks legal back in 2017 was because I thought they would be disruptive and unsafe,” Freeman said. "If those using fireworks cannot do it responsibly with consideration for how disruptive they can be to a neighborhood, then the legislature has no other recourse than to repeal the 2017 fireworks law. If we can’t get the votes in the legislature necessary for an outright repeal of the 2017 fireworks law then, at the very least, we need to enact my legislation to give local governments the authority to crack down on the abusive use of fireworks so that communities don’t have to endure the type of disruptive behavior caused by an irresponsible use of fireworks.”  

House Bill 1628 has been referred to the House Local Government Committee for consideration.