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Caldwell to sign off on fireworks limits

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 2:10 a.m. HST, Sep 27, 2010

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Friday that he expects to sign into law a bill that limits fireworks -- passed by the City Council on Wednesday.

"We're going to review it carefully to make sure it's legally correct, and if it's correct I'm inclined to sign it," Caldwell said. A legal vetting is standard for all bills that go to him for signature, he said.

The law bans all consumer fireworks, from sparklers to fountains. The exceptions are standard firecrackers, which would be allowed during limited hours for New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year, the Fourth of July and cultural celebrations from birthdays to cemetery visits. Adults will be able to buy an unlimited number of $25 permits allowing them to purchase up to 5,000 firecrackers, something they can do now.

The law takes effect Jan. 2. Council members, who voted 7-2 to pass it, said they wanted to give merchants one more New Year's Eve to get rid of existing stock.

Caldwell cited the strong push for stricter fireworks laws by the city's police, fire and emergency services officials who say they are dangerous to humans, pets and the environment.

Hawaii's loud New Year's celebrations are among the things that make the state different from other parts of the country, Caldwell said.

"It reflects our diverse cultural heritage, and I don't want to lose that altogether," he said.

That is why he is pleased the bill carves out an exception allowing firecrackers for cultural purposes, he said.

"But I do think as we become a more urban place, and as the type of fireworks have evolved to the aerials, to the bombs, to all these different kinds of diverse products, it's really become a public safety issue," Caldwell said.

The acting mayor has until end of business on Oct. 7 to sign Bill 34, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Opponents of the bill say illegal aerials are the main source of health problems and fires and that curbing consumer fireworks would not address that issue. Instead, they said, the bill will force many otherwise law-abiding citizens to turn to the black market.

Law enforcement leaders counter that consumer fireworks are equally bad.

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