Act 43 of 2017 expanded the sale and use of fireworks in Pennsylvania to “consumer fireworks.” These fireworks have an aerial and explosive element compared to “ground fireworks” for sale prior to Act 43. Since enactment, public safety personnel have reported a significant increase in fireworks-related incidents and injuries, as well as significant constituent complaints. Furthermore, Act 43 preempts local regulation via municipal ordinance.
In 2020, The League updated its policy on consumer fireworks. The League is now advocating for a full repeal of Act 43.
Positive Changes to the Consumer Fireworks Law Signed by the Governor
Act 74 of 2022
House Bill 2157
Signed: July 11, 2022
Effective: September 9, 2022
Act 74 updates the current fireworks law to address the illegal use of consumer fireworks.
The Act moves the current fireworks law from the Tax Code back to Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Statutes where it was housed prior to the 2017 legalization of consumer fireworks. While much of the underlying law remains unchanged, there are updates aimed at curbing the illegal use of consumer fireworks. The Act also includes updates to display fireworks provisions and fireworks sales.
Following are provisions related to consumer fireworks:
- Adds clarifying language to the prohibition of use on public property by enumerating examples of public property. It clarifies that the 150-foot clearance rule is from any structure or vehicle, including a structure or vehicle owned by the firework’s user.
- In dense municipalities where the 150-foot clearance rule makes discharging consumer fireworks illegal throughout, the Act contains clear language that a municipality may adopt an ordinance prohibiting use.
- Authorizes municipalities to require a permit to use consumer fireworks and charge a reasonable fee. The exception to municipal permitting are the holidays of July 4, December 31, Labor Day and Memorial Day holidays and immediately preceding and following weekends.
- Municipalities have the option to restrict the hours of use. This option is limited, however, to the following: no use between the hours of 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. with the exception of July 4 and December 31 when use is allowed until 1 a.m. When July 4 falls mid-week, use is allowed until 1 a.m. on the immediately preceding and following Friday and Saturday.
- Adds a conditional use provision stating no person may use consumer fireworks within 150 feet of an animal housing facility or fenced area for livestock. The owner or manager of the livestock must be given written notice 72 hours in advance of use within 150 to 300 feet of the animal facility.
- Authorizes municipalities to enact limitations on the sale or use of consumer fireworks that do not conflict with the law. Pending solicitor guidance, possible limitations could include regulations through noise and nuisance ordinances.
- Authorizes confiscation of any unused fireworks if being used in violation of the law.
- Requires sellers to conspicuously post or provide notice to purchasers of the prohibitions on consumer fireworks use including notice that individual municipalities may have additional restrictions.
- Increases the penalty to no more than $500 for a first offense. For subsequent offenses within three years of a prior conviction, the fine is increased to no more than $1000. Consumer fireworks use offenses are summary offences only. There are also increases in fines and penalties for illegal use of display fireworks and illegal sales.
- Finally, the full 12% tax collected on consumer fireworks will be directed annually to public safety as opposed to the $2 million cap in current law. In fiscal year 2020/2021, revenue was $14 million. Pending the legislative enactment of various programs and State Fire Commissioner guideline, the revenue would be distributed as follows:
- $1.5 million for Emergency Medical Service Grants;
- $250,000 for the Online Training Educator and Training Reimbursement Account for delivering, developing and sustaining training programs for both volunteer and career firefighters. This was previously limited to volunteer firefighters only;
- $1 million for PA Higher Education Assistance Agency to provide loan forgiveness and tuition assistance to students or graduates who are active volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel;
- $1 million for the Department of Health to train EMS personnel;
- $500,000 for the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to provide emergency services training center capital grants;
- $500,000 for the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to provide career fire department capital grants;
- $250,000 for the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to provide for a public education and safety campaign around the safe use of consumer fireworks;
- $500,000 to the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to be used for reimbursement to a Pennsylvania bomb squad for costs associated with removal, storage, and destruction of fireworks; and
- Any remaining money shall be divided equally, 50 percent for the Emergency Medical Services Grant Program and 50 percent for the Fire Company Grant Program.