Among the more seriously misguided bills coming before the Maine Legislature this session is another attempt to legalize the sale, possession and use of fireworks.

At least no one can say the bill’s author doesn’t have a sense of humor.

The first sentence  advises that it must be passed as an “emergency” so sellers can be up and running for the 2011 Fourth of July fireworks-selling season.

Wait, there’s more.

This creates an emergency “within the meaning of the Constitution of Maine,” and is “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety…”

Sure. Just like cigarettes, Jack Daniel’s and a cheap handgun. All part of making Maine a safer, healthier and more peaceful place to be.

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The bill caused a stir early last week when Gov. Paul LePage’s administration prohibited one of its most vocal opponents, the state’s fire marshal, from testifying against it.

“In his role as fire marshal, (John Dean) has offered testimony on similar bills in the past,” a LePage administration adviser told the Bangor Daily News. “And I don’t think it would be fair to him to ask him to express an opinion contrary — well, not exactly contrary — to what he has said in the past.”

Yeah, who wants to hear from a kill-joy like the state’s expert on explosives and fire safety?

Rep. Douglas Damon, R-Bangor, sponsor of the bill, said so many people are already using consumer-type fireworks that the state might as well just make them legal and tax them.

Yes, and so many Mainers are using marijuana that we might as well legalize and tax that, too.

“Fireworks are here,” Damon said, “whether we like them or not. We have the fireworks, but we don’t have the safety training for handling them. That has to change.”

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Safety training?

That’s right. The tax money would pay for a pamphlet to be given to buyers on the safe use of fireworks. Other discussion involves requiring fire departments to teach fireworks training classes.

And that’s not something firefighters are eager to do. Bill Vickerson of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters said his group was astonished by the bill.

“It is kind of hard for any of us to think that anyone thought this is a good idea,” he was quoted by the Bangor Daily News as saying.

The Maine Medical Association agrees.

While the LePage administration barred the fire marshal from speaking, it had not yet scrubbed the department’s website of anti-fireworks information.

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It reports that 8,500 Americans were injured by fireworks in 1998; 8,800 were injured in 2009.

Most injuries involved burns to hands, eyes, heads and faces, including a 7-year-old who lost half his hand when a firecracker exploded inadvertently.

The bill would supposedly limit fireworks use and sales to those 21 and older. The fire marshal’s site says, however, that 40 percent of fireworks victims are under 15 years of age.

The bill is popular with the LePage administration because it would  generate jobs. Yes, perhaps 50 seasonal jobs selling fireworks from roadside shacks.

And a few more for firefighters, ambulance personnel, ophthalmologists and plastic surgeons.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board


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