RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A proposal to legalize most consumer fireworks in the commonwealth died in committee Thursday, ensuring that Tennessee and West Virginia’s state-line stands will continue to see thriving business.
The proposal, from Delegate Marie March (R-Floyd), would have allowed the sale of many “consumer fireworks” that are currently banned under state law. While organizations and local governments can seek licenses to put on larger fireworks displays, March’s proposal would open up the market for smaller fireworks to private individuals.
“In Southwest Virginia, everybody I know drives to Tennessee, West Virginia and South Carolina to buy the good fireworks,” March said.
Part of her bill would have levied a 12% tax on all fireworks sales to go to a special fund for law enforcement and emergency services.
“If folks are already bringing them back to our state, then our firefighters and rescue are already having to field any firework accidents,” she said. “The only difference is we, in Virginia, are not reaping the tax benefit.”
Greg Crowder, the mayor of the rural town of Hillsville, Va., told the committee that he owns three firework stands across the state line in West Virginia.
“Right now, there’s literally millions of dollars of fireworks being let off in the state of Virginia without the fire marshals being directly involved,” he said. “I really believe in my heart that if it’s regulated, it’s much safer.”
But Spencer Willett, speaking on behalf of the State Department of Fire Programs, urged the committee to throw cold water on the bill.
“Some of the fireworks that would be allowed under this new bill would be mortars that launch into the air, that could cause fires for multiple homes on a street,” he said. “That would cause a significant strain on resources.”
The committee ultimately voted to set the bill aside, effectively killing it as legislators struggle to make it through an abbreviated session. The only vote in favor was Delegate Will Morefield (R-Tazewell), himself a native of West Virginia.