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House approves Kriesel's fireworks expansion bill

Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, saw his bill to expand the state's fireworks law pass the Minnesota House Monday 77-50. Newly legal fireworks would include bottle rockets and other aerial displays. Photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- The House joined the Senate Monday in wanting to allow more powerful fireworks in Minnesota.

However, unless the Senate accepts House changes, negotiators need to work out differences.

Newly legal fireworks would include bottle rockets and other aerial displays.

One of the changes Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, made in his bill was to limit sale of the more powerful fireworks to June 1 to July 7.

The House approved Kriesel's bill 77-50 after a vigorous debate about how much supervision the government should provide fireworks users.

"This namby-pamby nanny state attitude has to stop," Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said. "It already is happening. Let's make sure we don't turn citizens into criminals."

However, Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said fireworks hurt Minnesotans.

"I know we can't bubble-wrap the world," Murphy said, but people can have fun without fireworks.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, offered and later withdrew an amendment that would have banned people under the influence of drugs or alcohol from shooting off fireworks or supervising children using fireworks.

"This is one crazy idea," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. "You have come up with some whackos, but this takes a cake."

Atkins said a pound of fireworks is too much for many people to handle.

"If you vote 'no,' you are supporting drunk people supervising kids shooting off fireworks," he said.

Republicans did not like the idea of restricting Minnesotans.

Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said the Atkins' proposal is really read: "Thou shall have no fun in Minnesota."

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday morning that he did not yet know whether he would sign a fireworks bill. It is evolving as it moves through the Legislature, he said.

"I'm genuinely undecided at this point," Dayton told Minnesota Public Radio.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.