In October, lawmakers quietly included big changes to Pennsylvania’s fireworks law as part of House Bill 542, the revenue bill for the state’s budget.
Those changes are now starting to go into effect, prompting excitement from industry advocates and concern from fire and emergency services organizations.
For the first time in my life, Pennsylvania residents can walk into any fireworks store and buy anything they see and go light it off any time of the day or night legally. (Imagine how many people will be calling the Police for fireworks going off in the next month or so)
The fireworks in question are classified as “consumer” and include rockets, mortars, cakes, candles and crackers that can go hundreds of feet in the air.
The new law does not change anything for the very biggest fireworks, which are not sold in stores; they’re classified as “display,” used for professional shows, and still require special training and permits.
In the past, consumer fireworks also required municipal permits, and Pennsylvania residents who didn’t have those could legally buy and use only the smaller stuff classified as “novelty.”
But the new law drops the permit requirement for both buying and using consumer fireworks. Now, anyone at least 18 years old can buy them, and they can be set off on any private property as long as the property owner gives permission and the fireworks are at least 150 feet from an occupied structure — which would preclude most urban and suburban neighborhoods.
The new law is administered by the state Department of Agriculture and does not list any time restrictions on when consumer fireworks can be used.
It also institutes a 12 percent tax on consumer fireworks. According to The Associated Press, the state estimates that and new licensing fees for fireworks sellers will raise $2.6 million this fiscal year and $9.3 million next fiscal year.