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June 27 - COMMENTARY: It's that Time of the Year Again for the Fireworks Around Fireworks

Category: Editorial & Opinion

By Lou Phelps, Coastal Empire News
June 27, 2018 - Fireworks in many of our neighborhoods is an issue, particularly as we lead into 4th of July week. Follow the postings of local neighborhood associations, and you'll find postings about the disturbances by fireworks enthusiasts. Many have pets who are upset by the sound; there are also servicemen and vets with PTSD. 
I was up at the Georgia Legislature in the closing days of the session in March as HB 419 moved back and forth between the House and Senate, with various revisions. The bill expanded the ability of local municipalities and counties to regulate the noise of fireworks, and set hours of usage, beyond what it is provided in Georgia Law, but it also made clear that fireworks themselves could not be voted out. Georgia Code 25-10-2 was revised in 2016, allowing local communities to pass noise ordinances. But HB 419 changed the hours, and added other regulatory language. 
In their wisdom, the House and Senate moved the hours for shooting off fireworks from 9:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m, statewide. 
A local governmental body can pass a noise abatement ordinance under the following conditions: 
But, the bill laid out some specifics on passing a local noise ordinance: “Any noise ordinance of a county or municipal corporation which is to have effect for purposes of subdivision (b)(3)(B)(i) shall have been enacted or reenacted on or after July 1, 2018, and shall: (1) Be a general noise ordinance concerning all manner of sounds or noises and such county or municipal corporation shall not have any ordinance separately pertaining to sounds or noises emanating exclusively from consumer fireworks; and (2) Not have been enacted or reenacted unless notice of the meeting in which such noise ordinance was enacted or reenacted was published one time at least 15 days in advance of such meeting in the legal organ of such county or municipal corporation and was posted for at least 72 hours at least 15 days in advance of such meeting on the homepage of the official website of such county or municipal corporation. Such notice shall state the date, time, and place of such meeting and that such noise ordinance which will effect the use of consumer fireworks will be acted upon." The bill was passed by the Senate on March 29, and signed by Gov. Deal. The expanded local control goes into effect as of July 1.
The bill also protected certain days from local control 
- January 1st, July 3rd and 4th, the last Saturday and Sunday in May, and September for Labor Day. 
Of note, Sen. Lester Jackson and Sen. Ben Watson voted for the bill - expanded local control but allowed later hours - as did all of the Chatham County delegation except for Rep. Jesse Petrea who was in attendance during the last vote by the House, and was not an excused absence that day, but declined to vote and take a position on HB 419. You might ask him why. 
The issue now gets thrown to the city councils of all of the municipalities in Chatham County, as well as the Chatham County Commissioners, if they want to take it up. 
The language in HB 419 changed the time from 9:00 p.m to 11:59 p.m., but adds as long as: “such use or ignition is lawful pursuant to any noise ordinance of the county or municipal corporation of the location in which such use or ignition occurs, unless during such times the noise from such use or ignition is not in compliance with a noise ordinance of a county or municipal corporation as provided for in subsection (c) of this Code section, except as otherwise provided for under this subparagraph; provided, however, that a county or municipal corporation may additionally require the issuance of a special use permit pursuant to subparagraph (D) of this paragraph 48 for use or ignition;
Here's a link to a story that ran back in 2016 when the Georgia Code was revised, that explains the types of fireworks a local resident can purchase and use, as well as good safety information.

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