SOUTH PORTLAND – Wouldn’t it be entertaining if your car could talk when your teenager brought it back from an afternoon excursion? Sometimes it can.

I’m not a parent who snoops to catch my children doing wrong, but occasionally clues are left in plain sight. That is exactly what happened when I discovered a fireworks safety flier in the trunk of my Chevy Impala.

My son’s road trip to New Hampshire turned out to be more than an endeavor to buy a new hockey stick. Fortunately for my pocketbook and our family’s good reputation, the only code enforcer with knowledge of the contraband smuggling across state lines was me.

If a bill introduced in the Legislature passes, consumer fireworks will soon be legal in Maine. The bill wouldn’t legalize what my son did since he is a minor, but it would liberate families from York to Aroostook County to be honest about their traditional usage of fireworks.

Maine currently prohibits an American tradition dating back to the birth of our nation. After the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from England, John Adams wrote that future generations would celebrate the occurrence as “the great anniversary festival,” which has indeed been the case.

Adams noted that the commemorations should include “pomp and parade” and “bonfires and illuminations,” the 18th-century word for fireworks.

Let’s hope Maine’s legislators seize this latest opportunity to reverse the ban on fireworks and re-establish a patriotic custom. Let it begin with a robust debate with input from experts in fire safety and pyrotechnics. Let it continue with a request for advice from our neighbors in New Hampshire so an effective piece of legislation can be written.

Legalizing the sale of fireworks is in line with Maine’s renewed business-friendly goal. New Hampshire reports approximately $8 million in fireworks sales annually. Why shouldn’t entrepreneurs in Maine have a chance to benefit from these sales?

Forbes magazine listed Maine as 50th, or dead last, on its list of the best states for business. It also listed Maine as 47th in business costs and 48th in regulatory environment. Creating and encouraging a market for fireworks is one way we can reverse the anti-business stigma hovering over Maine.

If crafted carefully, the bill’s language will address the dangers of fire. The use of fireworks should be restricted during dry seasons and in densely populated urban areas. If fireworks are used illegally, the law should require full restitution by those responsible for damaged property and for public safety services.

Injuries from fireworks will be nominal if the law requires a minimum purchasing age, restricts the capacity of the explosive and includes an educational campaign. In New Hampshire, where consumer fireworks are legal, no serious problems with injuries have been reported. Of course, no legislation can eliminate all risk associated with any product.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, outdoor grills were associated with an annual average of 3,200 structure fires, 13 deaths and $70 million in property damage from 2004-2008. You won’t see a movement to outlaw backyard barbecues any time soon. A potential for risk shouldn’t equate to the elimination of access.

Income from taxes, permits and licenses can and should be used to educate the public about fireworks safety and regulations.

Communication will be imperative in the first few years if a bill to legalize fireworks passes. It should be a multimedia approach that uses broadcast public service announcements, point-of-sale pamphlets and social media sites managed by the state fire marshal and other groups involved with public safety.

The residents of Maine have proven their respect for fireworks laws. In a preliminary fiscal impact statement, it was reported that revenue from fireworks fines contributes an insignificant amount to the general fund. There is every reason to believe that a new consumer fireworks law with sensible rules will be held in the same regard.

Mainers are hard-working people who value time with family and friends. Fireworks, when used appropriately, are both safe and fun. It’s time to bring fireworks back to Vacationland.

– Special to The Press Herald