It would be legal to sell and set off fireworks in Iowa if a bill that cleared the Iowa House last night (Wednesday) becomes law. Representative John Wills, a Republican from Spirit Lake, was among the 53 House members who voted “yes.” “We need to have people understand that what they do and how they do it is their responsibility,” Wills said. “This bill gives freedom back to the people and I’m in favor.”
Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was among the 43 who voted “no.” “This bill does not make Iowa a safer place to live,” she said. “In fact, it does the opposite.” Critics cited concerns about fires started by the sparks of fireworks, as well as complaints that veterans with post traumatic stress disorder suffer from the sounds of fireworks. Representative David Maxwell, a Republican from Gibson, says he doesn’t have P-T-S-D, but couldn’t watch fireworks for several years after he got out of the military.
“I still don’t enjoy them,” Gibson said. “And I’m not a kill joy, believe it or not, but I know a number of people that really do not look forward to summertime and the 4th of July because what happened to them 40 or 50 years ago or even longer. I think we’re being a little bit shortsighted for a few bucks here.” That would be because the bill legalizes the sale of commercial fireworks in Iowa. Representative Matt Winschitl (WIND-shit-ull), a Republican from Missouri Valley, says he didn’t support the bill because of the tax revenue the state might collect.
“It’s about letting Iowans make the choice for themselves,” Windschitl says. “You’ve got 43 other states out there that allow one degree of fireworks or another beyond what Iowa does.” If the bill becomes law, it would be legal to set off fireworks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day. Representative Dave Heaton, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, says his dog, Molly, isn’t a fan of the fireworks that go off in his community over the 4th of July holiday.
“She gets through that, but I’ll be darned if I want to vote for a bill that makes the 4th of July year round,” Heaton said. Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls who voted for the bill, says he has “nothing but good memories” of setting off fireworks. “I can remember lots of 4th of July where we had a lot of fun with fireworks,” Rogers said. “And I remember doing the same thing with my own kids, in Cedar Falls.” A few legislators like Representative Mary Gaskill of Ottumwa admitted they were conflicted on the issue.
“I have young people in my district who really want me to vote yes on this bill,” Gaskill said. “And then I listen to the veterans and the fire fighters and those people who would be directly affected with the bill and I have changed my mind and I have decided I’m a no on this.” Representative Mike Sexton, a Republican from Rockwell City who voted for the bill, says far more Americans are injured by dog bites than by fireworks.”Folks, whatever happened to apple pie and baseball and Chevrolet and hot dogs and fireworks?” Sexton asked. “We are not talking about blowing up the state of Iowa.”
If the bill becomes law, cities and counties would be allowed to pass local ordinances restricting fireworks, plus the bill calls for a 250-dollar fine for improper use of fireworks. It would also be illegal to sell fireworks to a minor. A similar bill cleared a senate committee earlier this month and is eligible for senate debate.