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Politics and Government

Oneida County executive vetoes fireworks bill

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Derek Key
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Oneida County residents will not be able to purchase fireworks for the July Fourth holiday this year. The county executive, Anthony Picente, has vetoed a bill from the Oneida County Board of Legislators that would have allowed the sale of sparklers and small, fountain-style fireworks. He cited safety concerns.

"I still think that there's a great harm to anyone handling them, especially children and people of younger ages -- as I would be -- are inexperienced in dealing with such devices at any time of year," Picente said. "I think that's the strongest reason to be opposed to it."

The Board of Legislators initially passed the fireworks bill 18-5 back in May. They would only need 16 votes to override Picente's veto, but the board won't meet again until mid-July, well past the Independence Day festivities. Majority Leader George Joseph said the timing is unfortunate, yet said it will pass at their next meeting.

"I have more confidence in people that they're going to be responsible," Joseph said. "We cant try to safeguard everybody for every concern, but there's personal responsibilities that I think have to play out."

The New York Legislature passed a law in 2014 allowing individual counties to decide whether or not to permit the sale of certain fireworks. Since then, 37 counties have legalized the sparkling devices, including Madison, Cortland, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Cayuga counties. But, Piecente notes that counties with larger cities, such as Onondaga and Tompkins Counties, have not approved the sale of fireworks. 

"Housing stock being what it is in the inner cities causes great concern for the first responders and firefighters," Picente said. 

Oswego County has not approved the sale of fireworks either. Having that diverse assortment of counties is troublesome, according to Picente.

"In my role as a county executive, I don't like when public safety is checkerboarded in this way," Picente said. "It does tend to confuse our residents, especially across county lines. It's very difficult to enforce. It pits business against business."