State Senate committee holds fireworks amendment
Written by Sydney Smith and Ryan James
Edited by Liz White
Posted on April 24, 2008
A state Senate committee delayed a vote Wednesday on plans to raise the ages of buyers and sellers of fireworks.
The Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee pushed back the vote to satisfy the concerns of the fireworks industry, and the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
The proposal would require sellers to be at least 18 and buyers to be at least 16, said Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens. The amendment also raises fees for retailers.
Verdin said retailers wanted people as young as 16 to be allowed to sell fireworks. Retailers raised concerns about the age limits and differences in state and federal laws during an April 17 subcommittee meeting. Fireworks laws differ by state, and the federal government has no national fireworks regulations, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association.
State regulators asked the committee for suggestions to the amendment. The department raised concerns about federal statutes on age to sell and age to purchase, Verdin said.
"We're going to clarify the age to sell, age to purchase and fee schedule and hopefully have (the amendment) back in May," Verdin said.
Retailers were concerned about a minimum age to sell, Verdin said. "To limit where college freshmen or high school seniors can work really takes a big chunk out of the labor pool that's free and willing to work in these businesses," he said.
Jeffrey Ott, owner of Wild Bills Fireworks in Charleston, said he wouldn't hire anyone younger than 18.
"I don't have anyone under the age of 21 for that matter," Ott said. "I just think there's a certain degree of maturity that is needed and a certain degree of responsibility needed that you can't get out of a 14- or 15-year-old individual."
Ott said a minimum age limit for buying fireworks won't affect his business much.
"I don't know if we have any customers that are 14 or 16 years old," Ott said. He said his typical buyers are white men ages 25 to 45, or white or black women ages 21 to 50.
Danny Varat, research director for the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, said fees have not changed in decades. Ott said general retail fees have been raised, but permit costs haven't changed. The fees would rise to $150 for a temporary retailer and up to $1,500 for a wholesale retailer.
Ott said he doesn't oppose an increase in retail permit costs if it's for a good reason. "I'm all for raising the fee for a retail permit if they intend to use the additional money ... to educate the public on how to safely discharge fireworks," Ott said.
If the industry and legislature don't reach a consensus by May, the amendment will be held until General Assembly meets again in January, Verdin said.