Fireworks will remain illegal in Ohio for now; DeWine vetoes bill

COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 113 Friday afternoon, which would have allowed Ohioans to legally set off fireworks in the state on select holidays.

“SB 113 would be a dramatic change in Ohio law, which would make Ohio one of the least restrictive states in regard to fireworks laws,” DeWine said in a statement.

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The bill was sponsored by Senators Michael Rulli and Terry Johnson and passed the Ohio Senate with a 24-8 vote. The Ohio House passed the bill by a vote of 67-27.

“For too long Ohioans have been saddled with a consumer-grade fireworks law that was largely ignored and was all but unenforceable,” said Johnson, a Republican from McDermott in southern Ohio.

Under the bill, setting off consumer-grade fireworks would be limited to New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day weekend, Juneteenth, July 3, 4, and 5, as well as the Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays preceding and following; Labor Day weekend, and Dewali, a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

DeWine cited a portion of the bill that would allow fireworks stores to double the square footage of stores from 5,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft. He said the bill expanded the possible size of stores “without requiring adequate safety features.”

“Since the Scottown, Ohio, (Lawrence County) fireworks store tragedy in 1996, there have been 2 major studies, one by Battelle Labs in 2000 and another study by Southwest Research Institute in 2008 (produced for the fireworks industry) to help find better ways to build and operate fireworks stores.  SB 113 does not require compliance with the safety measures outlined in these studies but nevertheless doubles the square footage of stores that are selling these devices to the public,” DeWine said.

“For these reasons, this veto is in the public interest,” DeWine said.

The Ohio General Assembly could vote to overturn the veto, however it is unclear if that attempt will be made. Members could override the veto by a 3/5th vote in each chamber.

Ohio Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Montgomery County) was one of two Republican Senators voting against the bill.

>> Columbus Blue Jackets goalie dies after fireworks accident

“I voted against the bill because I believe fireworks are dangerous,” Antani said Friday. “I’m hopeful the general assembly will not override the veto.”

The veto decision comes in the wake of the death of Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks. Kivlenieks died of chest trauma from an errant fireworks mortar blast in what authorities described Monday as a tragic accident at a Michigan home on the Fourth of July.

“Tragically, Kivlenieks’ death reminds us that fireworks should always be handled with extreme care. I continue to have serious reservations about allowing fireworks to be discharged in Ohio without enough protections and safety regulations in place,” Sen. Hearcel Craig, who represents Columbus, told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline.

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