Illinois County considers legalizing fireworks

Repost of original Effingham Daily News Article posted here

EFFINGHAM — In an effort to keep local money spent by fireworks enthusiasts within the county, Effingham County officials are thinking about breaking new legal ground.

State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler said no Illinois county has tried to legalize consumer fireworks, which are technically illegal under the Pyrotechnic Use Act. But Kibler said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office thinks there is a loophole in state law that would allow counties to legalize a wide array of currently banned fireworks, including helicopters, aerials, spinners, Roman candles, mines and shells, as well as many others. The use of larger fireworks would still be illegal under the ordinance.

The County Board’s Tax & Finance Committee of the Whole recently voted to have the full board consider the ordinance on Monday. Board vice-chairman Dave Campbell said county residents circumvent the law by traveling to neighboring states where they can buy fireworks.

“We’re giving away $19 million (in firework sales) to neighboring states when we need that revenue here,” Campbell said. “I know we’re the first kid on the block, but I think it’s worth it.”

While board chairman Jim Niemann thinks the ordinance could withstand a court challenge by specifically banning private use of larger fireworks, other officials aren’t so sure.

“I’m not 100 percent sure about this,” Kibler said. “There’s no template for this kind of law. It will probably have to be tweaked a bit.”

Kibler also warned that the Illinois Attorney General’s office is not sold on the idea of individual counties being able to create their own firework ordinances. But he added the passing the ordinance is a relatively low-risk proposition.

“The worst thing that can happen is that the attorney general’s office could seek an injunction keeping us from implementing this ordinance,” he said.

Kibler said Rauner’s office is trying to encourage the concept of individual county rights.



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