Lancaster’s City Council has decided not to call for full repeal of Pennsylvania’s fireworks law after all, in order to give lobbying groups a chance to seek changes to the law instead.
“At this time, we’re going to take a step back,” council President James Reichenbach said at Tuesday’s meeting.
At council’s committee meeting last week, members discussed joining the city of Reading in calling on state legislators to repeal the 2017 law, which allowed consumer-grade fireworks permitted in other states to be sold and used in the commonwealth.
But advocacy groups say amending the law has a much better chance of succeeding.
“We don’t think repeal is something that is going to happen,” said Richard Schuettler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Municipal League.
The league is advancing a package of changes that would allow more leeway for local regulation, increase the fines for improper fireworks use, and make other changes.
The Pennsylvania Career Fire Chiefs Association is pushing for similar measures.
“We want to give them room to operate,” Reichenbach said Tuesday, since the amendments would represent an improvement over the status quo.
Reading City Clerk Linda Kelleher said Wednesday that repeal remains the way to go.
Reading, like Lancaster, has local fireworks regulations, and like Lancaster’s, they’re no match for the changes in behavior wrought by the state law, she said.
Consumers naturally assume, she said, that if something is legal to buy, it’s legal to use.
The 2017 law allowing consumer-grade fireworks was passed as part that year’s budget package. It imposes a 12% tax on fireworks in addition to the regular sales tax.
Police and fire officials say it has led to dramatically expanded fireworks use, turning neighborhoods into “war zones” around July 4 and other holidays and increasing the risk of fire, especially in dense, older cities such as Lancaster.