Iowa Gov. Branstad reserving judgment on legalizing fireworks

Bill would give officials power to suspend fireworks

James Q. Lynch
Published: February 24 2014 | 3:42 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:06 am in

As is his practice, Gov. Terry Branstad is reserving judgment on legislation to legalize the sale, possession and use of fireworks in Iowa.

“But I do know there’s a lot of interest. I do know a lot of people who go down to Missouri or to South Dakota to buy fireworks,” he said Monday.

In fact, the governor confessed, he’s one of them.

“I have to admit that as a kid, I did” cross the state line to buy fireworks, the governor admitted.

But it wasn’t only as child that Branstad joined the parade of Iowans across the border to purchase pyrotechnics.

“As a college student,” the University of Iowa graduate chuckled, “I remember going down to Missouri and buying fireworks.”

He wouldn’t have to go out of state to get fireworks if the Iowa Legislature approves Senate File 2294 that would legalize the sale and possession of fireworks. The proposal survived the Legislature’s “funnel” deadline Feb. 21 and is on the Senate State Government Committee docket.

The discussion started with SF 2064 offered by Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, who said he was tired of seeing money leave the state as Iowans cross the southern border to buy legal fireworks in Missouri.

Under current Iowa law, “snakes” and “sparklers” are the only fireworks that are legal to possess or light. Violation of the law is a simple misdemeanor.

SF 2294 would allow people older than 18 to buy skyrockets, roman candles and similar fireworks with limited exceptions.

Branstad, who was attending the national Governor’s Association winter meeting in Washington Monday, will wait-and-see what’s in the bill if it lands on his desk before deciding whether to sign it.

He understands many Iowans enjoy fireworks and would like to see them legalized.

“I go to a lot 4th of July events. If fireworks are handled properly they can be fun,” Branstad said. “You have to be very careful and there can be tragic accidents if they are not managed correctly. So I really would want to see what kinds of safeguards are in the bill before making a decision.”

SF 2294 would give the state fire marshal, city councils and county boards authority to suspend the use of fireworks if the devices were deemed to be a threat to public safety.

Sales of fireworks to anyone younger than 18 or purchases by minors would be misdemeanors punishable a fine of a least $250.

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