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New state law lets counties decide fireworks rules

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Although he would have preferred a statewide ban, City Councilman Gary Okino is still thankful for a new state law that allows counties to enact fireworks ordinances stricter than state law.

"It at least gives us a chance," said Okino, one of the staunchest supporters of a total ban on fireworks.

The new state law, Senate Bill 1059, was signed yesterday by Gov. Linda Lingle.

It calls for the convening of a task force to study the importation of illegal fireworks and explosives and to report a preliminary plan to the Legislature next year.

The bill was amended in the final weeks of the legislative session to give counties the authority to enact ordinances regulating fireworks that are more stringent than existing state laws.

Okino already has introduced a measure calling for a "total ban" on fireworks in Honolulu.

Bill 34 (2010) would make it "unlawful for any person to possess, import, store, sell, keep or offer for sale, expose for sale, use, explode or cause to explode any fireworks within the city," with exceptions for public exhibitors and others who obtain the proper license or permit.

"I don’t think it’s enforceable unless it’s a total ban," Okino said.

Consumer fireworks such as sparklers, toy smoke devices, wheels and ground spinners would be banned under a new fireworks ordinance being considered by the City Council, and larger display fireworks, aerials and other explosive devices that have become staples of New Year’s and Independence Day celebrations.

Bill 34 passed the first of three required readings by the Council earlier this month and has been referred to the Public Safety and Services Committee.

Newly appointed City Councilman Lee Donohue, the former police chief, yesterday was named the chairman of the committee by Council Chairman Todd Apo.

During his appointment hearings, Donohue — who is filling the remainder of the term created by the election of Charles Djou to Congress — said current laws on fireworks are difficult to enforce.

The proposal has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing. The Public Safety Committee’s next scheduled meeting date is July 1.

Okino said he is unsure whether the full Council supports the proposal.

"It is obviously not a slam dunk, but at least it gives us a chance to try and do it," he said.


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