Coral Springs will once again try to convince the state legislature about the need to give cities freedom to deal with the issue of illegal fireworks, but city officials are not banking on the current moratorium, which prohibits cities from introducing new laws on the issue, being lifted.
At a recent meeting, Coral Springs City Commission members were of the opinion that the city would be better off focusing on educating the public about the dangers of illegal fireworks than on trying to change state law. Continuing to confiscate illegal fireworks will also deter people from buying and using them, they said.
Mayor Skip Campbell said the city had recently held a meeting with State Senator Jeremy Ring on the issue. “We asked if he would be willing to do anything to change the law. He said it would be difficult, but he will look into it.”
This is not the first time that the city is attempting to get the legislature to lift the moratorium. It drafted a local bill that would have given it more enforcement tools, when Ari Porth was state representative, but the move went nowhere. The city then tried in 2009 to get a state bill passed, but did not get the support of the legislature or the senate.
Carl Prescott, a longtime resident who is fighting for a city free of illegal fireworks, is not surprised by the lack of support by the legislature. “The fireworks industry is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars. The task force that was appointed to study the issue did not do anything.”
Commissioner Dan Daley, who was Porth’s legislative aide before he became a city official, does not see the law changing in the near future. “The industry has a lock on the legislature, as of now. The only thing to do is more enforcement.”
According to the law, anything that flies, explodes or shoots flaming balls is illegal. “People shoot off illegal fireworks because they believe they can do it,” said Prescott. “We need to confiscate illegal fireworks as much as we can.”
The city has been confiscating illegal fireworks, with the help of the state fire marshal, in addition to warning people who have been shooting them off. On New Year’s eve, the police department had eight confiscations and received 40 calls complaining about fireworks.
The city will continue to educate the public and confiscate illegal fireworks, Police Chief Tony Pustizzi said. “If the state fire marshal backs out, it will seriously hamper what we do. We do not have the expertise or the equipment to store the confiscated fireworks. I anticipate them being with us this July 4.”
Coral Springs is the only city in South Florida that has confiscated illegal fireworks, said City Attorney John Hearn. The city would gladly introduce an ordinance to deal with the issue, if it had the legal authority do so, he added.
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