East Lansing Fireworks Rules Changed in Response to State

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 9:47 am
Jessy Gregg and Alice Dreger

Residents and visitors to East Lansing will be legally allowed to set off fireworks for a longer stretch around the July 4 holiday due to a new rule from the State. Legislative changes at the State level also means that local fines for discharge fireworks illegally have been raised from $500 to $1,000.

East Lansing City Council members aren’t happy about the State limiting local control on this issue. But they had no choice, so last week, East Lansing’s City Council amended the portion of the City’s code dealing with the discharge of fireworks. The fine for illegal discharge has been raised to $1,000 and fireworks can now be discharged only:

  • for New Year’s Eve, from 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve until 1:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day;
  • for Memorial Day and Labor Day on the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding, from 11:00 a.m. until 11:45 pm, with no fireworks allowed on the actual holidays;
  • for July 4th, from 11 a.m. on June 29 through 11:45 p.m. on July 4, extending to July 5 at 11:45 p.m. if that day is a Friday or Saturday.

“This ordinance is entirely because of changes in the State law in regards to what the City can enforce and what the fines have to be,” City Attorney Tom Yeadon told Council. He added, “This is the most restrictive that we can [be] under the State laws.”

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann – who in 2012, three years before he ran for Council, lobbied City Council to pass an ordinance restricting fireworks’ usage – indicated he was unhappy that fireworks could now be set off for a longer total stretch around the July 4 holiday.

Council Member Shanna Draheim also expressed her frustration with the mandated changes to local law, referring to the situation as “feeling the foot of the State on your neck.”

“The issue of State preemption of local authority is a very big issue,” Draheim said at Council’s meeting. (Preemption refers to the State’s ability to pass laws that supercede local laws.)

“There is a concerted effort across the country by several groups, but one in particular, ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council], that likes to shop around legislation to the state legislatures and have bills like this – you name it, plastic bag bans, the gamut is wide,” Draheim said.

According to Draheim, “there is work that is being done to push back on some of this nationally and it’s an issue that might not seem relevant everyday to citizens but actually has a huge impact on your daily life, when your local policy makers can’t make decisions for you and the state preempts that. It’s something that I urge you all to follow, get involved with, write your legislators and your congressmen about.”

Council Member Aaron Stephens shared an anecdote about a conversation that he had had with an East Lansing citizen recently. He said he was asked why the City Council hadn’t pursued a revenue option instead of the recently implemented income tax, such as a municipal sales tax or municipal tax on alcoholic beverages.

“We just couldn’t do it, because the State has decided that we’re not allowed to,” Stephens said, concluding, “every community is different and the ability for local elected officials to legislate to their community is vital.”

Besides raising the fine to $1,000, the new law also requires that $500 of that fine go to the East Lansing Police Department.


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