- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa residents could celebrate holidays by lighting fireworks in the comfort of their own backyards should lawmakers approve lifting the ban on the devices.

Under the bill, anyone 18 and older would be able to purchase and use novelty and consumer fireworks within the state. Currently, only sparklers and other non-explosive novelties can be sold in Iowa.

A House Ways and Means subcommittee approved the measure Monday, said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley. It will now go to the full committee for a vote.

Windschitl said an amendment will be proposed for further clarification, adding a licensing fee to sell fireworks, granting local governments the authority to implement citywide bans and determining how to handle firework use within state parks, he said.

“I think Iowans are reasonable and responsible people, and so therefore they should be able to go out and exercise this opportunity,” Windschitl said.

Some of Iowa’s neighbors, including Missouri and Nebraska, already sell fireworks. And a poll conducted by The Des Moines Register showed 56 percent of Iowa residents favor lifting the ban, and 46 states currently allow residents to purchase and use certain fireworks.

But those who oppose the bill said allowing Iowa residents to light fireworks at their homes could have an adverse effect. Firefighters and medical professionals have said legalizing fireworks might lead to more injuries and property damage, which they claim is already an issue when people use them illegally.

Lawmakers also need to consider that Iowa residents who don’t use fireworks may have to deal with property damage as well should their neighbors improperly use them, said Thomas Stanberry, a lobbyist with the Iowa Insurance Institute.

Windschitl said he’s hoping that allowing the sale of fireworks would also bring educational efforts on the risks and dangers, and that injuries would therefore decrease.

He also said it would be better to buy fireworks in Iowa, rather than crossing state lines to buy fireworks and then using them illegally within Iowa borders.

Rep. Charles Isenhart, D-Dubuque, said he didn’t believe the bill should be a priority in the House this session, but would be willing to work on it moving forward.

Similar legislation has been approved in the Senate State Government Committee and is eligible for floor debate.