State Senator to Introduce Fireworks Legislation

January 8, 2016, 9:32 AM HST · Updated January 8, 9:32 AM
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Fireworks on Maui. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Fireworks on Maui. Photo by Wendy Osher.

State Sen. Will Espero (Dist. 19: ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) is introducing legislation to resolve the state’s illegal fireworks problem, a public safety concern that has the potential to impact all Hawai‘i residents and businesses.

There has been an alarming increase in illegal fireworks use and complaints across O‘ahu during the holidays and a large spike in fireworks arrests. In addition, a historical home in ‘Ewa was recently lost to fire attributed to an aerial firework.

Sen. Espero said his bill to establish an improved container inspection program for Honolulu is a recommendation from the 2011 Report to the Legislature from the Illegal Fireworks Task Force.

“If a dirty bomb were to be smuggled into Hawai‘i and exploded in Waikiki or downtown, the local economy would be crippled,” said Sen. Espero. “Tourists would cease to come, jobs would be lost and Hawai‘i could be thrown into a recession. One location where fireworks are being smuggled into the state is Honolulu’s harbor and shipping port, and this is an area where resources and attention must be given.”

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As part of the legislation, the inspection container program would entail the following:

  • Random inspection of shipping containers which arrive in Honolulu. Deploy a majority of resources to high-risk containers versus low risk containers. Low-risk containers include the military, state and county government, established businesses, and major retailers.
  • Conduct a majority of the inspections away from the ports to allow the flow of containers to be removed from the port in a timely manner in order to avoid delays in off-loading.
  • Random inspection of freight forwarder locations where recipients’ pick-up, open and unload containers.
  • Utilization of explosive sniffing dogs when opening shipping containers as much as possible.
  • Random inspection of common carriers as warranted and needed.
  • Inspection of all containers with legal fireworks. Utilization personnel who know the difference between commercial fireworks and illegal aerials.
  • Increase fines and prison sentences for a conviction of importing illegal fireworks or explosives.
  • Request funding from the federal government for homeland security and port security measures. Work with the military for funding sources.
  • A balance of safety concerns versus efficient commerce and moving of goods so as not to drive up consumer costs.

Funding for the inspection program would be collected through a fee for every container brought into Hawai‘i. A one-time appropriation of $250,000 from the general fund for FY16-17 would be used for the purchase and care for at least two explosive sniffing dogs, to fund the handlers of the dogs, and to begin the shipping container inspection program.

The state sheriffs division would be responsible for developing and conducting the random inspections working with the shipping companies, freight forwarders, the Department of Transportation and other stakeholders. The state National Guard may also be utilized to assist in the random inspections of shipping containers.

Sen. Espero plans to introduce the bill in the 2016 Legislative Session that is scheduled to begin Jan. 20.

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