Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill that would allow the sale and use of a wide array of consumer fireworks, including aerial rockets and firecrackers.
He said in a veto letter, issued less than 90 minutes before the midnight deadline on Saturday, that it is "government's foremost responsibility to protect the safety and the well-being of its citizens."
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, and Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, allowed the sale and use of the full range of consumer fireworks in Minnesota, but only between June 1 and July 7.
"Their work is a role model for the legislative process," Dayton wrote of the sponsors, particularly for their ability to respond to people's concerns.
"In this case," he added, "government has the responsibility to do its utmost to protect vulnerable young Minnesotans, courageous firefighters and police officers, and innocent bystanders of all ages, who could become victims of someone else's carelessness."
Dayton issued the veto as he announced the signing of a raft of other bills. They included:
-- The health and human services budget bill, which restores reductions in such programs as Personal Care attendants and cancer and dialysis treatment through Emergency Medical Assistance.
-- A bill changing the oversight and management of school trust lands.
-- An agriculture bill that establishes a micro-loan program for immigrant farmers.
In his letter on the fireworks bill, Dayton noted that after Minnesota legalized ground-based fireworks such as sparklers and small cones in 2002, injuries have spiked, particularly among young people. Property damage statistics, he said, "showed a similar trend."
"Expanding the array of legally-available fireworks products, particularly to explosive and aerial varieties, can only be expected to exacerbate these statistics," he said.
Currently, only ground-based fireworks such as snakes, sparklers and cones are legal in Minnesota. The bill legalizes aerial rockets, including multi-tube devices, as well as firecrackers. The sponsors argued that many residents purchase these fireworks at shops across the border and shoot them off illegally in Minnesota. Wisconsin border stores are a big draw for Twin Cities fireworks enthusiasts, they said.
The bill was opposed by fire departments worried about more fires, hospital emergency rooms and burn centers worried about more injuries, and local governments who wanted some controls. As a concession, the bill did allow some regulation by local governments.