AUGUSTA — Failing to clean up the debris after a private fireworks show could more easily result in a littering fine if a bill approved by the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is passed.

The measure specifically adds fireworks debris to the state’s littering laws, but the committee rejected a handful of other proposals that would have tightened regulations around fireworks, including a bill that makes it easier to charge somebody with disorderly conduct when they misuse fireworks.

Rep. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, said he supported stripping the language around disorderly conduct because it seemed to be contrary to the very point of fireworks.

Chenette also said the definition as it pertains to fireworks would be in conflict with local ordinances around fireworks.

“I have a major concern about the unreasonable noise piece of this in relation to municipal ordinances,” he said. “Because if you are going to fire off a firework, guess what? It’s going to cause a noise. How do you define unreasonable noise? If a municipality says you can fire off a noise between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. then you can fire off a firework between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m.”

The committee also watered down portions of the bill that would have made it clear that when the governor bans outdoor fires because of the high forest fire risks, fireworks are automatically included in the ban.

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Instead they voted to allow the governor to determine if fireworks would be banned under a proclamation banning outdoor fires by adding consumer fireworks to the list of things the governor could ban under such conditions.

A written statement from a staff attorney for Republican Gov. Paul LePage said LePage opposed the change because state law already allowed the governor to ban any other “human activity” that could increase the risk of wild fires. 

Lawmakers said the portions of the bills they rejected were already covered under state laws.

But committee members seemed interested in making sure the governor could spell out that fireworks are banned when there are outdoor fire bans in place to protect against wild fires.

State Rep. Tim Theriault, R-China, a fire chief, said regardless of what laws were on the books regarding fires and fireworks there would always be some who didn’t abide by them.

“You can’t fix stupid,” Theriault said. He said he issues burn permits in his town and each year has to respond to fires that were lit when they shouldn’t have been.

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“You can’t fix people that do things that they shouldn’t,” Theriault said. “We have posted speed limits and people speed every day. I’m just trying to remind people you are not fixing anything because people that want to do something stupid do things stupid.”

State Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, a retired fire chief, said he had to agree with Theriault.

“You can’t regulate stupidity and that’s understood,” Lajoie said. 

Lajoie also said those selling consumer fireworks in Maine had been responsible in trying to educate consumers about their proper use.

“The fireworks industry in our state has been very, very responsible and they have done everything they can before those fireworks go up. They can only do so much,” Lajoie said.

But Lajoie also said that if a specific mention of fireworks was not added into laws around littering and fire bans, it made it harder to prosecute those who would break the law.

“The commercial fireworks industry makes a point of cleaning up as much debris as they possibly can so it doesn’t disrupt the community, and here we have individuals that use consumer fireworks that are not as thoughtful,” Lajoie said.

The final language of the bills that were approved Monday will be reviewed once more by the committee before they are passed on to the full Legislature for a vote in the weeks ahead.

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