Schwank bill would allow municipalities to limit fireworks

HARRISBURG, Pa. - After an Independence Day on which some said parts of Reading "looked like a war zone," a lawmaker who represents the city is pushing for change.

State Sen. Judy Schwank announced Wednesday that she plans to introduce a bill that would grant municipalities the authority to regulate and limit the use of fireworks in their cities, boroughs and townships.

Schwank said she has received many complaints about the use of fireworks since the 2017 enactment of a state law that expanded the sale of more powerful fireworks. It's a law she voted against.

"While I'd prefer to ban all of the higher powered fireworks, I recognize that a statewide repeal is likely not going to happen," Schwank said, "but this legislation would allow local municipalities to impose ordinances such as what days and at what times they will allow fireworks."

Schwank's proposal comes nearly two weeks after an Independence Day that saw Reading police officers and firefighters respond to dozens of fireworks-related calls, including a fire that caused more than $50,000 worth of damage to Amanda Stout Elementary School on South 10th Street.

"My legislation will reaffirm municipal governments' historic authority to regulate peace, safety and order in their communities," Schwank said.

At last week's meeting of the Reading City Council, members were joined by city police and fire officials in calling on the state to take action.

Fire Chief William Stoudt Jr. told council that he and his colleagues across the state are pushing for a repeal of the 2017 law because of the greater danger posed by large fireworks.

"Whoever wrote that law ought to come down here and see what's going on and see what he thinks," responded Councilman Stratton Marmarou.

In the meantime, the city said it will be forming a plan of action to ensure there won't be a repeat of all the fireworks-related calls next Independence Day.

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