Governor vetoes bill allowing Ohioans to set off fireworks

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 16, 2021

DeWine references Scottown tragedy in his decision

COLUMBUS (AP) — Legislation allowing Ohio residents to set off fireworks on certain holidays was vetoed by Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday.

The Republican governor said he used his executive power once again to push back on state lawmakers’ decision to pass a bill that would change Ohio’s fireworks safety laws by allowing nonprofessionals to set off fireworks without requiring compliance with standard safety measures.

“SB 113 would be a dramatic change in Ohio law, which would make Ohio one of the least restrictive states in regard to fireworks laws,” DeWine said in a statement. “For these reasons, this veto is in the public interest.”

The proposal sought to eliminate the current requirement in law that individuals purchasing consumer-grade fireworks must transport them out of state within 48 hours.

In his veto message, DeWine referenced a 1996 fire at a fireworks store in Lawrence County where nine people were killed.

On July 3, 1996, Todd Hall, 24, at the time of the incident, was said to have tossed a lighted cigarette into Ohio River Fireworks, a Scottown fireworks store, setting off an explosion and fire.

Nine people died: Ryan Aldridge, 24, Misti Cron, 21, Shelbi Cron, 3, Candy Lee, 31, Matt Samson, 14, Floyd Tolliver, 34, Ona Tolliver, 8, Jason Wallace, 9, and Kathlene Wilks, 71. Eleven were seriously injured.

Later, investigators determined the sprinkler system at the store had been turned off.

The brain-injured man was said to have the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, the result of a skateboarding accident in 1987, which led to the removal of part of his brain.

Hall was charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter but never stood trial because of mental incompetence and was put in an Athens institution.

Hall made court appearances about every two years and was found incompetent to stand trial each time. Hall died in March 2015, at the age of 43, at Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare Center in Athens.

The veto also comes days after Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks was killed after a fireworks mortar shell hit him in the chest on July 4.

DeWine added that he does not want to legalize fireworks in the state until more safety measures are enacted. Ohio is one of a few states that does not allow residents to set off fireworks but allows them to purchase them.

The bill, which cleared both chambers with veto-proof majorities, will now go back to the Legislature where lawmakers can override DeWine’s veto with a three-fifths vote. If they are successful, the override will be the governor’s second since taking office in 2019. The first override took place in March over how the state should respond during a health emergency.