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Sen. Torrey Westrom: Decriminalizing fireworks is a $6 million secret

July 4th, 2013 is the 237th celebration of what we recognize as the birthday of our country. Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, is a very important national holiday. It commemorates the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Penn.

The Fourth of July is a jubilant time for our country. We noisily honor the wisdom and courage of our founding fathers and commemorate the birthday of our country with marching bands playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” rousing speeches, and fireworks bursting overhead. It’s a joyful time of acknowledging our debt to those early Americans and celebrating our good fortune in being free Americans.

For decades, neighboring states have been allowed to sell fireworks to use in honor of this holiday. About ten years ago, Governor Ventura and the legislature allowed some limited smaller fireworks. Minnesota needs to take a common sense next step in the same direction as our adjoining states. In addition to decriminalizing an activity that many Minnesotans’ participate in over the Fourth, the "little secret" is that it would bring in up to an estimated $6 million a year in new sales taxes. Presently, the bordering states are the benefitting party – Minnesota is the loser.

Next session, I will be introducing a bill that will allow Minnesotans to sell, buy, and use fireworks for their Fourth of July celebrations and other events. More specifically, this bill will authorize the sale and use of aerial and audible devices, change the licensure fee process for these items, and reduce regulations imposed on the sale of sparkling devices and novelties. It will also reflect American Pyrotechnic Association (APA) standards and update the National Fire Protection Association Standard to a more recent edition.

The bill is similar to the legislation that passed both the Minnesota House and Senate in 2012, but was vetoed at the last minute by Governor Dayton. It maintains the current law that “legal fireworks” may not be used on public property or purchased by persons younger than 18 years of age.

Let us also reflect on the meaning of our Independence Day and ask you to consider the course of our freedom and independence. Our country has been blessed with visionary men and women who have changed the world. In the absence of a less burdensome and controlling central government during our nation’s first two hundred years of history, it was individual Americans who were free to unleash their creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to make our country the premier innovator and producer in the world. Hopefully in 2014 you can celebrate the Fourth with aerial fireworks – legally!

I wish you all a happy and safe Independence Day, filled with family, fun and – most of all – freedom.