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Debate Reignited Over Legalizing Some Fireworks in NY

5:43 PM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY A bill to legalize sparklers and other small fireworks around July 4 and New Year's Eve passed the Legislature last week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar measure last year, but the bill's Rochester-area sponsors -- Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Sen. Michael Nozzolio -- are hoping that changes to the legislation will extinguish opponents' concerns.

Last September, Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have legalized the sale of sparklers and other small devices like "snaps" to those older than 18. Cuomo cited safety concerns.

A Cuomo spokesman said Thursday that the Democratic governor would review the bill.

New York City would be exempt from the law after city officials have raised concerns about making any small fireworks legal in New York.

The city is concerned that any legal fireworks could increase the threat of terrorism, wrote Joseph Garba, the state legislative director for the city, in a memo to state lawmakers.

Garba cited the 2010 case of Faisal Shahzad who purchased fireworks at a Pennsylvania chain store and unsuccessfully tried to detonate a bomb-like device in Times Square.

"The increasing threat of terrorism has changed forever how we perceive any kinds of fireworks," Garba wrote. "Once regarded as harmless entertainment, we know now that they are not."

The bill would limit to two times a year when the fireworks could be sold: June 1 through July 5, and Dec. 26 through Jan. 2. It also would require vendors to receive a license from the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control.

Morelle last year said that legalizing some small fireworks would prevent people from buying them out of state and ensure the industry is being regulated in the state. The bill would not allow the sale of large fireworks, firecrackers or Roman candles.

Morelle and Nozzolio could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The bill states that the current law has not been used effectively in part because it is poorly defined, leading for cases to be thrown out of court. Since 1956, 63 convictions have been obtained statewide on fireworks possession, the bill said.

"By modernizing the statute and clearly defining fireworks, dangerous fireworks and novelty devices, the bill will provide law enforcement with an important tool in reducing the use of illegal fireworks and homemade devices and encouraging the use of safe and legally regulated novelty devices," the bill says.

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