The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

July 22, 2012

Engineer keeps up his fight for legal fireworks

CHARLESTON — Expect a few fireworks in Monday’s start of the July interims session.

On the agenda at Judiciary Subcommittee B is the latest in a series of failed efforts to put West Virginia in a national trend of states legalizing fireworks.

Retired chemical engineer Cliff Rotz, one of the leading proponents, anticipates much of the same arguments in opposition, namely that fireworks are risky in the hands of non-professionals and could cause fires.

“One of the things that is interesting is there is at least anecdotal evidence that injury rates frequently go down in states in which fireworks are legalized,” he said.

“I think the reason for that is the good, safe, legal fireworks kind of forces out the illegal fireworks like cherry bombs and M-80s. Therefore, there are safer things available for the public when fireworks are made legal.”

If he can’t succeed in the injury department, Rotz is prepared to appeal to legislators on a matter that touches all of them, at one time or another: money.

“There is a lot of feeling among the populace that we’re losing a great deal of revenue in tax money to Ohio and Kentucky just in legalized fireworks,” he says.

“Ohio has been able to sell to West Virginians for many years, even though they can’t sell to their own residents. People definitely do get their fireworks, whether they’re going out of state or whether they’re able to buy them legally in their own state.”

Which raises another point for the pro-fireworks forces. And that is simply that West Virginians buy and detonate the illegal ones now anyway, especially on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.

There is hardly a neighborhood anywhere in the state where the night skies on those holidays aren’t encumbered with the loud noises and colorful streaks.

Such a bill was authored last winter by House Government Organization Chairman Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, and exited his committee but ultimately died in the judiciary panel. Among co-sponsors were Delegates Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette; Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming; and Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh.

“I think that’s our starting point,” Rotz said of failed HB4102.

When he appears before the subcommittee, Rotz intends to tell members that other states recently have legalized fireworks.

“They are legalizing them at an ever-increasing rate,” he said. “There definitely is a trend. Maine, Kentucky and Michigan just legalized fireworks in this past year.”

If enacted and ultimately approved by the governor, such a new law would allow five specific varieties of fireworks: rockets, Roman candles, shells, firecrackers and cakes.

A special 10 percent safety fee would be imposed on each sale, and proceeds likely would be divided between the fire marshal’s office and volunteer fire departments, although the split is undecided.

Rotz owns degrees in chemistry and physics from the University of Minnesota and is a certified pyrotechnics operator in West Virginia. He undertook master’s course work at Iowa State University. His first efforts to legalize the more potent fireworks came in the 2007-2009 sessions with former Sens. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, and Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wyoming, and current Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

“I have loved fireworks since I was a kid growing up in rural Minnesota,” says the retired Dow Chemical engineer.

“I’ve been a member of various fireworks associations up to 42 years. It’s been kind of an avocation.”

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • Judge in W.Va. asked to delay gay marriage ruling

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has asked a judge to postpone ruling on a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia's same-sex marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a ruling in a similar case in Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Tri-state coal interests rally before EPA hearings

    More than 2,000 union workers and others organized by the coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia joined top state elected officials Wednesday to rally against proposed stricter federal pollution regulations for coal-burning power plants.

    July 30, 2014

  • Work continues on stand-alone Warrior Trail

    The executive director of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail Authority said Tuesday that officials are still working toward the creation of the stand-alone Warrior Trail in McDowell County.

    July 30, 2014

  • East River Mountain Tunnel repairs will continue for several weeks

    Motorists traveling Interstate 77 could see slight delays again tonight as repair work continues inside of the fire-damaged East River Mountain Tunnel.

    July 30, 2014

  • State leaders to attend coal rally in Pittsburgh

    West Virginia officials are set to join hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

    July 30, 2014

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo