published Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Legalized fireworks sales proposed 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.

Georgians wouldn't have to travel to Tennessee, Alabama or South Carolina to buy fireworks under two bills written by state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, that would legalize Peach State pyrotechnics sales.

Mullis' Senate Resolution 378, which passed the Senate on Tuesday in a 44-5 vote, would ask the state's voters in November 2014 to amend the state constitution to 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.

State Rep. Jay Neal, R-Chickamauga, plans to support the legislation.

"I think that's a responsible way to do it: Put it on the ballot and see what the people think," Neal said of the proposed constitutional amendment. "I think most Georgians will vote for it."

Companion legislation, Senate Bill 229, hadn't been voted on yet by the full Senate on Wednesday. That bill would let local governments OK 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 that could be used only to pay for equipment and training for police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

Mullis couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

The senator volunteered as Chickamauga's fire chief and later was Walker County's assistant fire chief and fire marshal after the county absorbed Chickamauga's firefighting duties, according to Walker County Fire Chief Randy Camp.

Sparklers and other small fireworks are legal now in Georgia, as are larger fireworks shows -- provided a permit is issued, Camp said.

The fire chief isn't worried by the prospect of legalizing Roman candles, firecrackers and skyrockets for personal use.

"Personally, I don't really have a problem with it," he said.

Georgians already shoot off fireworks, Camp said.

"I can sit on my front porch and watch eight fireworks displays" on holidays such as July 4 and Memorial Day and on New Year's Eve, he said.

"I can only think of maybe one or two [firefighting] calls a year that might have a relation to fireworks," Camp said.

If Georgians are going to buy fireworks, they might as well buy them in Georgia, he said, "where we can reap the benefits of the tax dollars."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties 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. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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