“Since it’s happening already, maybe we should put some parameters in place, which this bill does, to legalize it,” Feenstra said.
If the bill becomes law, Iowans could legally set off fireworks from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. any day of the year, plus for an extended period on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and on New Year’s. The only fireworks which are legal to sell and set off in Iowa today are sparklers and snakes. The measure sets up a state licensing system that would allow Iowa retailers to sell consumer fireworks like bottle rockets and flares. Critics like Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids say fireworks create safety risks for the people who use them, as well as their neighbors.
“But the real clincher for me was when I had one of my local psychiatrists send me an email and say: ‘Please don’t vote for this. Don’t do this to my patients who has PTSD or are suffering from mental illness,'” Hogg said. “It might be fun for people who think, ‘Yeah, this is a little bit of fun here and there,’ but this has real world impact on real people.”
The bill passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee late this afternoon on a 9-6 vote. Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, the committee’s chairman, allowed a vote on the bill, but Bolkcom said he agreed with the eye doctors, fire fighters and EMTs who urged him to oppose the bill.
“I think we’re going to see an increase in injuries,” Bolkcom said. “We’re going to see an increase in fires. We’re going to see an increase in, potentially, people losing their lives.”
Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo, the bill’s manager, responded to the critics.
“I think it’s been greatly exaggerated about the effects of this bill because it is not only happening in border communities,” Dotzler said, “in my community of Waterloo, they’re shooting them off all the time.”
Dotlzer said the bill would create some potential economic benefit to Iowa retailers who may choose to start selling fireworks. The bill is now eligible for debate in the full, 50-member Iowa Senate.