published Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Fireworks legislation fizzles in Georgia

Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, talks during an interview.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For at least another year, Georgia residents still will have to travel to Tennessee, Alabama or South Carolina to legally buy fireworks.

An effort to legalize personal pyrotechnics in the Peach State made headlines last year. But the proposed legislation fizzled this year in Atlanta and didn't survive the 2013-14 Georgia Assembly session.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who supports legalization of consumer fireworks in Georgia, said he'll focus more attention next year to make it happen.

"I would rather have good legislation than quick legislation," Mullis, the chairman of the Senate's Rules Committee, said Monday.

Mullis got Senate Resolution 378 passed last year. It would have asked the state's voters in November to amend the state constitution and earmark the estimated $2.5 million to $10 million in annual sales tax revenue from Georgia fireworks sales to fund trauma care and firefighter services.

Mullis' companion legislation, Senate Bill 229, would have let local governments approve the sale of fireworks such as Roman candles, firecrackers and skyrockets. Counties could ask voters to levy a 1 cent sales and use tax on fireworks sales to fund equipment and training for police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

Companion fireworks legalization legislation authored by Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, got hung up in the Georgia House, Mullis said. The legislation had to originate in the House, he said, because it involves an excise tax on fireworks.

"Jay Roberts was shepherding that," Mullis said. "I will work with him over the summer."

The manager of a large fireworks store alongside Interstate 75 in Cleveland, Tenn., predicts that Georgia eventually will legalize fireworks.

"I say you'll see that," Fireworks Supermarket manager David Dumm said.

States that once forbade consumer fireworks, such as Michigan, legalized them recently because they need the money, Dumm said.

"If not, that's great," he said of Georgia's reluctance to legalize fireworks. The Fireworks Supermarket gets "a ton" of Georgia customers, Dumm said.

"They're to fireworks what we were to the lottery," he said.

Even if Georgia legalizes fireworks, he predicts they'll cost more than Tennessee's fireworks because of the additional taxes to fund emergency personnel and trauma care, whereas only sales tax is levied on Tennessee consumer fireworks.

"I say it's going to be a pretty heavy tax," Dumm said. "We just pay sales tax."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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