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Friday, Sep 19, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Florida fireworks law is for the birds

Published:

We have the strangest problem at my house.

Every year, like clockwork, it appears an infestation of birds declares war on our neighborhood. It always happens as the ball drops on New Year's and in the wee hours of the Fifth of July.

That strange phenomenon is the only way to explain why our normal Brandon serenity is shattered by the pop, pop, bang, BOOM of firecrackers at an hour when even the late-night TV hosts are signing off.

The birds go away. At least I assume they do, since this happens at night and I can't see them actually fly.

But if folks were shooting off firecrackers just for kicks, that would be illegal under Florida law.

Anyone who buys pyrotechnics from those big tents that seem to be popping up everywhere has to sign a form promising these big, bad boomers will be only used for agriculture purposes - like scaring birds away from crops.

These concerned neighbors are just trying to keep the fields safe, wherever they are in our paved subdivision.

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It's either that, or the law requiring folks to sign a bogus form so they can make noise into the wee hours is really dumb.

It was enacted in 2007 by the Florida Legislature. Nothing weird ever comes out of there.

So what's really going on here?

"The fireworks industry is extremely, extremely powerful," said state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

Oh.
Lawmakers, influenced by "extremely, extremely powerful" outsiders with an agenda - who would have guessed?

Fasano cited personal experience. At the behest of the state fire marshals, he tried to file a bill some years back to just modify the fireworks law a little.

"My bill went nowhere," he said. "I think there were some nice campaign donations then to people in leadership, and the bill just got stopped."

The lobby even helped kill a move that would have turned control of fireworks noise abatement over to the counties. It's easier to control the Legislature.

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The agricultural exemption actually had a benign intent. Farmers need a tool to keep their strawberry and blueberry fields from being devoured by hungry scavengers, and loud noises will do the trick. That loophole got exploited to the ridiculous situation we have today.

So now, my neighborhood will look like the fall of Saigon on the morning after the Fourth of July.

There will be spent casings and bottle rockets all over the street, and I don't blame police. They couldn't possibly answer each noise complaint.

It's a crock, but then again it's Florida.

It would be entertaining to go by the window of one of the little merrymakers at about 6 in the morning and let them share in the joy of loud cracking sounds. I wonder if any of them has a strawberry patch and a problem with birds?

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