Ban on flying lanterns advanced

Senators advanced a bill from general file Jan. 19 that would prohibit the sale of flying lanterns.

LB136, introduced by Wahoo Sen. Jerry Johnson, would make it illegal to sell, possess or use a flying lantern. Johnson said 25 states already have approved such bans in order to protect public safety.

“One year ago on New Year’s Eve in Columbus a flying lantern landed within the property of an ethanol plant, which is very explosive,” Johnson said. He also explained that $200,000 in fire damage was done to a house when a lantern landed on its roof.

The bill defines flying lantern as any device that requires a flame, which produces heated air trapped in a balloon-type covering, allowing the device to float in the air. The bill’s provisions would not apply to hot-air balloons used for transportation.

Violation of the bill’s provisions would be categorized as a Class V misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers supported the bill, saying there are no benefits to allowing the sale of the lanterns.

“There is no compelling state interest in allowing something that is a hazard and has no societal value whatsoever,” he said. “The invitation to do damage and destruction to property is not something that ought to be approved by the Legislature.”

The bill was advanced to select file on a 30-0 vote.

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