By Jim Ragsdale
Leaders of burn centers in St. Paul and Minneapolis, where the most severe burns are treated, have urged Gov. Dayton to veto a bill that authorizes the use of more powerful fireworks.
The House sponsor, meanwhile, said he has attempted to make compromises in response to criticism, and urged Dayton to sign it so that residents can celebrate the Fourth of July with aerial displays.
The bill, passed by both houses this week, is on Dayton's desk, awaiting Dayton's decision. It would legalize the full range of consumer fireworks, including multi-tube rockets that burst high above the ground. In a concession to opponents, however, the bill limits use to a five-week summertime period. and allows for regulation by local governments..
"The death rate and property damage form consumer fireworks strongly correlates with the strength or permissiveness of state fireworks laws," said the letter, which was signed by William Mohr, Medical Director of the Regions Hospital Burn Center; Ryan Fey, co-director of the HCMC Burn Center; and Bruce Bennett, head of the surgical intensive care unit at Regions Hospital.
The letter said Minnesota has the 13th lowest rate of death from fire in the U.S., and those states that are lower "either have a total ban or significant restrictions on fireworks."
"The medical community who provides care for the tragic injuries caused by fireworks believes the price paid by the legalization of fireworks is already to high," the physicians said.
Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, the House sponsor, also sent Dayton a letter on Wednesday. He said while Dayton has heard from fire chiefs and hospitals,"they also likely did not tell you that the most dangerous form of firework is the sparkler, which has been legal in Minnesota for a decade...."
He said states that allow more powerful fireworks have "not seen an increase in injuries or fires since enacting their laws."
Dayton said Wednesday he has not yet decided whether to sign or veto the bill.