Bill Could Make Fireworks Legal in Iowa
Iowa lawmakers are in the process of considering changes to the state’s firework law. The bill, which is being debated in the Senate, would allow the sale and use of certain consumer and novelty fireworks in the state.
If the bill passes, Iowa residents will be able to buy and use consumer fireworks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., with extended hours near holidays when fireworks are common. A similar bill passed in the House last spring, before dying in the Senate.
Iowa would be the 44th state to allow some or all consumer fireworks that are permitted by federal laws, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association’s website.
Under the current law, only novelty fireworks are allowed, and consumer fireworks are banned. The current Iowa law does not have any penalties for possessing fireworks. It is only illegal to use the fireworks.
The ban has not stopped the use of fireworks in Iowa. Iowa residents are known for driving to the neighboring states of Missouri or Wisconsin to buy fireworks legally.
“Quite a few” of our customers are from Iowa, Randy Schaar, the manager of Phantom Fireworks in Roberts, Wis., said. Many of his customers are from the Twin Cities area, but almost 10 percent of his customers come from Iowa, he said.
“The status quo is not working,” State Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls, said. Danielson is the floor manager for the bill. He compared fireworks to a barbeque fire grill, another consumer product that can pose fire or other safety hazards if not handled properly, saying that they “found a way” to let Iowans use those products.
“In some cases, you are going to be better able to educate and enforce use” if you legalize some types of fireworks, Danielson said.
Safety concerns are some of the main reasons for opposing a bill that legalizes the use of fireworks. Physicians constantly have concerns about firework safety, Megan Bendixon from the Iowa Medical Political Action Committee said. There is a link between the legalization of fireworks in a state and increased emergency room visits, she said.
Others disagree that an increase in fireworks use causes increased injuries. “Injuries are way down and sales are up,” Schaar said. “Fireworks are pretty safe now.”
Iowa Firefighters Association is also lobbying against the bill because of concerns about an increased risk of fires resulting from setting-off fireworks.
“I disagree with my own association,” Danielson, who is also a career firefighter with the city of Cedar Falls, said.
Under the current law, firefighters have to tell people that they cannot use fireworks. “I would like to have a better answer for people who call into the fire station,” Danielson said, noting he would like to ask them if they talked to their neighbors about setting off fireworks as well as considerations of the wind speed and moisture of the surrounding area.
The concerns from a number of groups have led to compromise, Danielson said. The biggest compromise is the increase in “local control,” Danielson said. The proposed bill would allow the fire marshal to control the use of fireworks through a permit program, with funding for the program coming from taxes on firework sales.
Danielson’s committee has talked to the majority leader of the Senate about calling it up to the floor.
You can follow the progress of the bill by going to www.legis.iowa.gov and searching the bill number SF2113.