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KEEPING HOUSE 6/20/2011

In this month's column, I would like to discuss a topic many constituents have asked me about and that has been referenced several times recently in the media.

The 2011 Utah Legislature passed House Bill 22 to allow a new type of firework in Utah. The bill also amends the dates during which fireworks may be sold and used.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan of Taylorsville, is primarily intended to reduce the number of Utahns traveling to other states to purchase fireworks to bring back to Utah.

The bill allows the sale and discharge in Utah of a certain type of aerial firework known as "cake," "multiple tube" or "aerial repeater."

Cake fireworks have a stable base with multiple discharge rounds. They shoot displays as high as 150 feet in the air. They have sometimes been described as miniature professional displays.

Under the new law, firecrackers, cherry bombs, mortars, bottle rockets and roman candles are still illegal, and professional-grade fireworks are still prohibited to the general public.

The state fire marshal has stated that the new cake fireworks are designed to come down cold after display, thereby minimizing fire risk. Under the law, cities and counties are still permitted to pass local restrictions outlawing all fireworks in specific locations.

The greatest danger posed by the new fireworks is improper use. They may only be discharged at least 30 feet from any structures and in an area with no vertical obstructions.

The bill also changes the legal dates for sale and use of all fireworks in Utah. Before passage of the new law, fireworks could be sold beginning June 19, but could only be discharged three days before and three days after the 4th and 24th of July.

This led to widespread use of fireworks at times when they were technically prohibited.

House Bill 22 sets a simple rule that fireworks may be sold and discharged anytime from June 26 to July 26. Also, the four days leading up to, and including, the day of New Year's Day and Chinese New Year continue to be allowed.

After the bill was passed and signed by the Governor, the State Fire Board issued standards regulating the sale and use of the new cake fireworks.

They may be sold only with the assistance of an employee in an area displaying signs explaining the dangers and proper use of aerial fireworks.

The new bill continues the age restriction on fireworks in Utah, prohibiting the purchase or use of fireworks by anyone under 16.

I have some concerns about the new fireworks law, but after deliberation, I voted yes on the bill for the following reasons:

First, the sponsor of the bill argued that when people travel out of state to obtain "flashier" fireworks, they actually end up purchasing and bringing back products much more dangerous than what the new Utah law allows. By encouraging people to stay in Utah to buy more enjoyable fireworks, the bill will hopefully improve safety.

Second, I was persuaded by the testimony of fire officials that the cake fireworks do not present a great fire or safety risk.

Third, I have been troubled by reports of Utah law enforcement sting operations near the Wyoming border. The new law will hopefully end this inefficient use of state resources.

Fourth, there will likely be additional economic activity and tax revenue that will benefit Utah businesses and employees.

Fifth, I believe that government should be responsive to citizens' desires and minimize unnecessary laws and regulations.

Sixth, local jurisdictions can still enact their own prohibitions on any fireworks.

I would appreciate your input on the new fireworks laws as we proceed through the summer of 2011. I am willing to propose any amendments to the laws that may appear necessary as we learn more information.

As with most legislative issues, the goal here is to find the proper balance somewhere in the middle between personal liberty and government regulation, and not to resort to extremes in either direction.

As always, please feel free to contact me to express your thoughts pertaining to this or any other legislative matters.

My email address is kraigpowell@utah.gov and my phone number is 435-657-0185.


BY REPRESENTATIVE KRAIG POWELL   06/20/2011



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