ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — In the end, a bill legalizing more powerful backyard fireworks in Minnesota proved to be a dud.
At least to Gov. Mark Dayton, who vetoed the legislation late Saturday.
The first-term Democrat admitted to being torn over the issue more than any bill he has received in the past two years. But Dayton said in a letter accompanying the veto that he was swayed by opposition from fire chiefs and other safety officials. Dayton said bill sponsors took pains to work with opponents, but it wasn’t enough.
“Much as I would like to reward their efforts and to satisfy the many Minnesotans who want greater latitude to buy and use fireworks legally in our state, I cannot do so,” Dayton wrote. “Most Minnesotans are responsible enough to ignite and explode those inherently dangerous devices properly and safely. Unfortunately, some are not.”
The bill Dayton vetoed would have legalized aerial fireworks and other devices with a louder bang than the novelty fireworks now allowed in Minnesota. Ten years ago, Minnesota lifted its all-out ban on consumer fireworks with a law permitting novelty fireworks such as glow worms and sparklers.
Supporters of the expansion bill argued that any Minnesotans who want to set off fireworks can easily obtain them in neighboring states, and that police rarely enforce Minnesota’s existing laws.
“I’m beyond disappointed. I’m very irritated actually. I did everything I could,” said Republican Rep. John Kriesel, the bill’s sponsor. “We’re going to punish the majority of the people in the state because there are a few idiots who can’t be responsible?”
Dayton cited data showing a rise in fireworks-related injuries and property damage since the non-aerial and smaller bang fireworks were allowed in 2002. The data showed the average injuries per year doubled and property damage jumped dramatically.
Dayton was lobbied hard on both sides.
Bill sponsors included language allowing cities to impose local restrictions and to narrow the window for buying and using the fireworks to five weeks around the Fourth of July holiday.
Opponents, led by fire officials and emergency room doctors, were also vocal. A firefighters group called the type of fireworks “exceedingly dangerous” even under proper supervision.
The Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology was among the groups that submitted letters to the governor urging him to strike the bill down.
“Fireworks are by their nature dangerous instruments involving explosions, accelerants and projectiles that have the potential to cause devastating injuries to face and eyes,” the group said. “Please VETO the recently passed legislation.”
Dayton announced he did just that about 90 minutes before his clock for acting expired.
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