ATLANTA -- A plan that could legalize all fireworks in Georgia easily zoomed through the State Senate on Monday. Like a bottle rocket, you might say.
The vote was 44-5 to place a referendum on the ballot statewide, to let voters decide.
And here's the twist to this one:
The State Senator who is behind this plan is proposing to dedicate revenues from fireworks sales in Georgia to good causes -- to trauma care and to firefighters.
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Walker County) thinks sales of firecrackers and bottle rockets in Georgia -- in addition to sparklers which are already legal here -- could generate millions of dollars a year for trauma care and firefighters.
Maybe $3 million, maybe $10 million, it's tough to estimate, Mullis said.
Georgians are going across state lines anyway to buy the "big bang" fireworks that are legal there.
So why not, he said Monday, keep those consumers and their money in Georgia?
"These are the things that go boom. Boom!," Mullis said, describing the fireworks that would be legalized, "you know, the aerial stuff, bottle rockets, firecrackers. Currently there are no restrictions, there are no safety measures. Let's embrace it, put some safety measures in there, make it as safe as possible, then send the revenue to some place that can do good, like trauma care and fire services."
We've all seen the news video of the firecracker dummies that get blown up every year by the Consumer Products Safety Commission during the pre-Independence Day safety push.
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Gwinnett County) worries about children suffering the serious injuries that the dummies only demonstrate.
She opposes a referendum to legalize fireworks.
"The most frequent injuries are an amputation of the fingers, the toes, injury to your eye, and a hearing loss," she said Monday. "And those are serious damages, especially to a young child. And they have consequences for the rest of your life."
Sen. Unterman is also taking issue with the proposed wording that voters would see on the ballot measure, wording that the Senate approved on Monday.
The measure, Senate Resolution 378, reads, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly by law to dedicate revenues for the funding of trauma care and firefighter services in the State of Georgia?"
"They'll think that they're voting for trauma and firefighter services," Unterman said. "The word 'fireworks' isn't even mentioned."
The wording that voters would not see on the ballot, according to the Senate's version of the plan, is in the actual legislation: "...such dedicated funding shall be provided by funds collected from the sale of fireworks and any other source that the General Assembly may provide by law...."
The Senate's fireworks-fundraising plan now goes to the State House, which will consider whether to make any changes to it, and whether to put the plan on the ballot.
Read Senate Resolution 378 and track its progress