July 27, 2008

Fireworks for Firefighers...now we have heard it all

When are the pyros going to stop? The article below from West Virginia actually contemplates shoring up sagging pensions funds for firefighters (which are already too high in CA) with the sales of currently illegal fireworks! Hey is you cant get taxpayers to do get the lobbiests to fund it peddling fire! This is too much. The legislators must be breathing in too much fireworks smoke and it has affected their thinking. When you read further you will see that the fireworks industry rakes in $900 million nationally per YEAR. (So maybe its just the effects of the fireworks money on the legislators)...All that pollution and California is just regulating leaf blowers and fireplaces for air quality? Also does anyone see just a little irony in using fire starting fireworks to fund the pensions of firemen? So we start more fires due to all the firework sales, then have to hire more fireman, then have to sell even more fireworks to fund their over bloated pensions. This creates a never ending cycle. Perhaps we should use drug sales to fund police departments (oh wait we already do with asset forfeitures...sorry what were we thinking).

Government never ceases to amaze me with stupidity. As former Senator Fritz Hollings said last week in an interview with Bill Moyers to promote his new book (Making Government Work)...the lobbyists on K street write the legislation as the legislators are too busy trying to go to fundraisers with lobbyists to raise money for re-election. There are two rules in politics: 1. get elected. 2. Get re-elected. Looks like the 900 million from the fireworks industry is being put to good use in the West Virginia legislature.

Published: July 26, 2008
Fireworks for firefighters?

Lawmakers look at source to provide revenue for pension fund
By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

Fireworks are a thing of majestic beauty and scientific marvel in the eyes of one beholder.

In the minds of some lawmakers, they could also provide a source of revenue to underwrite a pension fund for West Virginia’s volunteer firefighters, providing the beleaguered departments an incentive to attract fresh recruits and retain them.

Before the year is out, Select Committee F expects to hear retired Dow Chemical engineer Clifford Rotz explain how the state can benefit financially from legalizing fireworks.

For now, under state law, only the wimpy variety are kosher — the innocuous sparklers and the like.

The kind that shower the night skies with a burst of colors and loud noises — the rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers — remain illegal.

Rotz worked with Sens. Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wyoming, Shirley Love, D-Fayette, and Ron Stollings, D-Boone, last winter on a failed bill that would let ordinary citizens buy and set off the so-called “explosive” fireworks, but the legislation never reached the Senate floor for a vote.

“I have no financial interest,” Rotz said. “I have just a personal interest. I’ve loved fireworks since I was kid growing up in Minnesota. My interest in fireworks and rocketry as a kid led me to study chemistry and science and ultimately to getting degrees in chemistry and physics at the University of Minnesota.”

After his master’s work in chemical engineering at Iowa State University, he moved to Charleston and began working for the former Union Carbide in 1981.

The Dunbar resident then began to share an affinity his colleagues hold for fireworks.

“Fireworks are, of course, a wonderful mixture of science, chemistry, art and beauty,” he said.

“One of my degrees is in chemistry. I enjoy studying the chemistry of how they work and seeing how different chemicals go into your different effects and colors, producing the effects they’re supposed to. I think it’s just kind of a bottom line, a kind of gut-level thing, where I think various people in the pyrotechnics field internationally love fireworks because there are so many different facets that are of interest, regardless of what your personal interests are in life.”

What the Big Bang theory holds forth in the Legislature is that several million dollars are there to be realized, allowing for creation of a pension fund for volunteer firefighters at a time the departments are struggling to keep their stations open for business. Rising fuel costs, workers’ compensation premiums and a difficult economy which compels many volunteers to hold down two jobs are taking their toll.

West Virginia has but 11 paid departments, and the 424 volunteer units have become a source of special legislative attention this year.

A full range of fireworks is legal in 18 states, but only a decade ago did West Virginia even permit the less threatening variety.

Firecrackers, if legalized, could contain no more than 50 milligrams of powder as approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“A common aspirin tablet is 325 mgs, so the amount of powder in a firecracker is one-sixth of that inside an aspirin tablet,” Rotz said.

Decades ago, Rotz pointed out, states began outlawing fireworks in response to the carnage, at a time when no federal controls existed.

“Things like the M-80s and even bigger explosives were allowed, and a lot of kids were getting hurt,” Rotz said.

Consequently, rather than approach the issue from a selective basis, the tendency was to make all such fireworks illegal.

“Now, with the CPSC, we don’t have to ban all of them,” he said.

“There’s been a trend in this country over the past 30 years or so to actually re-legalize fireworks.”

Rotz is a member of Fireworks Alliance, which seeks to maintain a legal status for the devices, and Pyrotechnics Guild International. (wait I thought Rotz said he has no financial interest..LAAG) The latter meets annually, attracting thousands from across the nation — professionals, amateurs, businesses and the academics.

“There is a literature of fireworks as a rich heritage that goes back hundreds and hundreds of years,” Rotz said.

“People even collect rare books.”

From the standpoint of money — one that catches any politician’s eye — Rotz says that in 2006 fireworks amounted to a $900 million industry nationally.

Broken down, that amounted to 26.2 million pounds marketed to professional pyrotechnics and 252 million pounds to amateurs. (wow that is a big difference; LAAG) Using those figures, that means about $815 million worth were snapped up by individuals. Rotz considered the rural nature of West Virginia, where fireworks tend to be more popular than in suburban locales of other states, and figured this state could witness some $12.6 million in sales.

Imposition of a special, 10 percent fireworks safety fee could translate into some $1.26 million that could be applied to a firefighters pension account, which Rotz considers “a very, very noble” idea.

Rotz isn’t sure when he is to appear before Select Committee F, but one panelist, Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, while not sold on the idea of legalized fireworks, intends to invite him.

“I’m still up in the air,” Green said.

“I’m not sure I’m a proponent of legalizing those fireworks. His take is that people are going up into Marietta, Ohio, and different places and bringing them in. There’s no oversight. I just don’t know what the public outcry or response would be for legalizing those things. But it’s something worth looking at to face the problems we have with the volunteer firemen.”

In the proposed legislation, no one under 16 could buy fireworks. Anyone under 18 would be required to wear some type of eye protection, such as goggles folks strap on while using weed-eaters. And, in every type of fireworks sold, a safety brochure for the proper use of handling must be included.

Modern history appears to be on the side of proponents such as Rotz.

Available data kept by the industry show the number of injuries has been falling “very, very rapidly” since the 1970s, even as more and more people are setting off fireworks, he said. (note there is no mention of pollution effects as that is a loosing argument the fireworks industry does not want investigated or discussed; oh and lets trust the lobbyist supplied data on injuries, which by the way are only for injuries on one day a year unlike all other injury statistics for other products; LAAG)

On its Web site, the American Pyrotechnics Association shows that 29 million pounds of fireworks were touched off in 1976, and there were an estimated 11,100 injuries, for a rate of 38.3 per 100,000 pounds. Two years ago, the consumption soared to 278.2 million pounds and injures had plummeted to 9,200, or a rate of 3.3 per 100,000. Growth in the industry has been nothing less than phenomenal. In 1997, it reported sales of $350 million, but two years ago, the figure had leaped to $900 million.

Contact Mannix by email at mannix@register-herald.com

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

click here to receive LAAG posts by email

No comments: