Fireworks bill fizzles in Richmond
February 21, 2011
VIC BRADSHAW - The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER— Fire-prevention officials have helped to extinguish a bill that would have broadened permissible fireworks regulations throughout Virginia.
Fifty or more officials, including two from Winchester, packed a General Assembly meeting room in Richmond on Wednesday in opposition to House Bill 1834.
By day’s end, the Senate’s General Laws and Technology Committee had voted 14-1 to kill the legislation.
Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R- Upperville, was among the committee members voting against the bill. The legislation would have created statewide standards for permissible fireworks, an action fire officials said could be dangerous.
As worded, it would have allowed permissible fireworks to be used on any non-public property without the owner’s permission and to be stored in buildings that were not constructed to house explosives safely.
Jeremy Luttrell, Winchester’s interim fire marshal, and Blane Johnson, president of the Winchester Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, said a handful of fire officials were selected to comment about the bill, and were limited to three minutes each. However, as they finished, they asked those opposed to the law to stand.
“Eighty percent of the people in the room stood up, and it was a big room,” said Vogel, “and every single member of that committee had people from home there. That reinforced how much of an issue this was and how much our fire-safety officials cared about this.”
Luttrell said Winchester officials were asked to send representatives, and he and Johnson were available. Others in attendance included fire chiefs and fire-code officials from all around Virginia.
Community safety was the predominant theme for those speaking against the bill.
“A big part of it was concern for the safety of citizens, the safety of children, to allow this bill to pass through as it was proposed,” Luttrell said. “This proposal circumvented a system that’s already in place for developing and massaging [state fire] code.”
Luttrell said the fireworks industry officials who spoke in support of the bill portrayed it as a simple piece of legislation that mainly affected sparklers and other fireworks often thought of as non-threatening.
There’s a bigger picture — that you’re dealing with explosives here, or products that fall into the explosives category,” he said. Johnson noted that sparklers can produce temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees. He said a Loudoun County fire official told the committee about a child who suffered severe burns in 2008 because of a sparkler.
“I think that hit home, because several of the senators have children and grandchildren,” said Johnson, a paramedic with the Friendship Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company.
He said the sizeable opposition turnout and strong arguments against the bill seemed to have a major effect on the legislators.
Vogel said fireworks industry officials, retailers, and representatives of nonprofit organizations that raise money via fireworks sales spoke in support of the bill. However, she said the panel was swayed by the safety concerns.
“In an economy like this, you want to support merchants,” she said. “But at the end of the day, you have to think that we have fire-safety officials for a reason.
“If they come to me and say it’s a safety issue and an issue for kids, that’s more compelling.”
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifty or more officials packed a General Assembly meeting room in Richmond on Wednesday in opposition to House Bill 1834.
Vogel new Deputy Whip for party caucus
February 01, 2011
Star staff report - Winchester Star
State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R- Upperville, has been named deputy whip for the Senate Republican Caucus.
She replaces former Sen. Robert Hurt of Farmville, who was recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Senator Vogel has been a leader in our Caucus and an effective conservative voice in the Senate since her election in 2007,” Sen. Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr., R-James City, said in a news release.
“Her strong work ethic has earned her the respect of senators from both sides of the aisle. As our deputy whip, she will play a vital role in helping us advance our conservative agenda and positive message.”
Vogel is in her first term representing the 27th District, which includes the City of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke counties, and parts of Fauquier and Loudoun counties.
She said she is “excited to have been given this opportunity to serve my colleagues in the Republican Caucus. I am honored to have been chosen for this new responsibility and am looking forward to working with the members to promote our agenda.”