Bill would allow sale of aerial fireworks in Minnesota

Published 10:05 am Monday, April 11, 2016

A local representative supports a House Republican plan that would make aerial and audible fireworks available for sale in Minnesota.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said the plan would permit more local control over the sale of fireworks, and added the bill would allow fire departments and other local entities that have concerns to address them.

The bill changes the license fee process for consumer fireworks and limits regulations imposed on the sale of sparkling devices and novelties.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

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She said the bill is being worked on, and she expects it come to a vote.

According to Bennett, expanding fireworks sales in Minnesota will make the state more competitive with neighboring states.

She said Minnesota businesses will receive more revenue, and the state will receive more tax dollars from the bill. She said she would rather have people buy fireworks in Minnesota than buy them in neighboring states and transport them over the border.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said he would be open to the plan, but noted he has spoken with Albert Lea firefighters who were opposed to it because of the danger they said it would pose to children.

Sparks said he wants to make sure people are not crossing state lines to buy the fireworks and then transporting them back to Minnesota.

The legislators are also evaluating several other recent bills:


Tax cut bill

Sparks said he is aware of a bill considered by House Republicans Wednesday that would lower the second-tier income tax rate.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

The proposal, unveiled by District 42 Rep. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, would lower the second-tier income tax rate from about 7 percent to just under 6.5 percent.

Sparks said he is concerned the plan could substantially decrease state revenue.

The Department of Revenue estimated that more than 1.3 million returns would see a decrease in taxes at an average of about $230, costing the state an estimated $493 million in the next fiscal year.

Isaacson’s measure focuses on lowering the income tax rate for the state’s second-tier income tax bracket. For a married couple who file jointly, that would range from about $36,000 to $146,000 of taxable annual income.

Sparks said he wanted to take a look at Isaacson’s entire bill before making further comment.

Bennett said though she does not know much about the bill, she thinks the state needs to reform its tax code to become more competitive with Iowa. She said she has heard constituents tell her jokingly they want to move to Iowa because of Minnesota’s high taxes.


Pre-K funding

Bennett said she does not support Gov. Mark Dayton’s $25 million proposal to help school districts start building out voluntary pre-K programs.

She said though she supports the governor addressing early childhood education, she does not support his methodology.

Bennett, vice chairwoman of the Education Innovation Policy Committee, said a majority of research on the subject supports a targeted methodology. She said if more money is spent toward each 4-year-old in the state, those in need will be neglected.

Dayton’s proposal would specifically target poor school districts without other early education options.

According to the governor’s office, the optional preschool program, combined with existing preschool scholarships serving about 5,600 children, would help ensure about 12.6 percent of Minnesota 4-year-olds are enrolled in quality early learning programs that set them up for success in school and life.

Bennett said she supports targeted scholarships to address achievement gaps.

Sparks is open to Dayton’s proposal.

He said though he supports pre-K education and local school districts are willing to explore it, they need to have the class sizes and school sizes to be able to make the program work.


Looking ahead

Sparks said discussion this week will shift from policy to the budget, specifically on addressing the state’s roughly $900 million surplus.

Sparks said he will advocate for local bonding requests, such as the $1.5 million for the design  of Bent Tree Trail, about $7.43 million for Riverland Community College renovations, $1.35 million to connect sanitary water and sewer to Stables area and $3.5 million to move Front Street north to make way for lakefront development on the Blazing Star Landing.

Sparks, a member of the Capital Investment Committee, said the surplus should allow tax relief and the passage of a supplemental budget.

Bennett said she will be in committee hearings this week, focusing on securing final omnibus bills ahead of Friday’s deadline.

She also serves on the Agriculture Finance Committee and the K-12 Education Finance Committee.


— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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