EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 12, 2013

Proposed fireworks bill held over for study

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM – A legislative panel is delaying action until next year on a fireworks safety bill prompted by an accident that injured 13 people in Pelham last summer.

“The committee will work on it between now and the next session and, hopefully, come up with something acceptable to everyone,” said Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham, the prime sponsor of House Bill 336.

The bill is in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, where a proposed ban of some fireworks had met with opposition from businesses that had already stocked up on inventory.

Legislative committees can, in the first year of a new term, retain bills for more work until the second year.

“The so-called fireworks bill has been retained in committee,” Takesian said. “They saw some merit in the bill, but apparently didn’t think the wording was just right.” I think they liked the idea of more communication between the sellers and buyers, but didn’t think they should be banned.”

Takesian’s husband, Hal Lynde, serves on the Board of Selectmen, which last fall also held off imposing local fireworks restrictions in response to the accident.

Selectmen were concerned about burdening police and fire officials with enforcement of restrictions, as well as possibly overreacting to the mishap and unfairly limiting local holiday celebrations.

Takesian’s bill, which had the backing of Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, as co-sponsor, proposes outlawing reloadable shells, as well as so-called helicopters and parachute aerial devices.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has pointed to reloadable shells as a contributing factor in the Pelham accident.

Yesterday, State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan conceded disappointment in the decision.

“I am very concerned nothing was done this year,” Degnan said. “But that is the legislative process. They retained the bill so they can have more discussion.”

Some committee members had expressed reservations because of the lack of statistics concerning accidents in New Hampshire.

But Degnan said national statistics show the fireworks Takesian’s bill would ban are the leading cause of fireworks-related deaths and injuries throughout the country.

Degnan is still concerned about the unpredicatability of some of the fireworks, such as parachutes.

“You couldn’t tell where they were going to go,” he said.

Degnan remains optimistic the Legislature will continue its work.

“I’m hopeful the Legislature will do the right thing when they come back next year,” he said. “In the meantime, we will try to educate people about the dangers of reloadable fireworks.”

Fire chief Jim Midgley, who testified before the House panel about the Pelham fireworks accident, will continue to work with the committee as it works on the legislation, Takesian said.

The state Department of Safety supported Takesian’s bill, but fireworks businesses cautioned the Legislature against hurting them by imposing a ban after they had taken on inventory for the coming season.

Degnan said the Legislature has, in the past, approved legislation with delayed effective dates to afford businesses the opportunity to respond to changes in a way that doesn’t harm them.