- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation that would legalize the sale of fireworks in Iowa advanced Wednesday through parts of the Iowa Legislature, though it may face some challenges from lawmakers.

A Senate committee voted 10-5 in support of the bill, which would allow the retail sale and use of consumer fireworks such as firecrackers and roman candles. Current law allows sales of novelties like sparklers.

The measure bounced between the Republican-majority House and the Democratic-controlled Senate last session with little success. Advocacy groups have raised concerns about injuries, while supporters have pointed out that Iowa residents are simply driving to a neighboring state to purchase consumer fireworks.

“The time has come to look at that policy (and) come up with a thoughtful, responsible way to allow both the freedom and the public safety to be balanced on this particular product,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee.

Despite the overwhelming vote for the measure, the meeting entered a second hour as lawmakers discussed the bill’s overall merits. Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, challenged the argument that the law would lead to fireworks going off daily. He noted he lives near neighboring South Dakota, where the sale of fireworks is legal, and he’s experienced little trouble.

“They don’t shoot 365 days a year. They don’t go out there and their fingers every day are coming off. … That’s an illusion that I think just manifests fear,” he said.

Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, proposed an amendment to the bill that would give cities and municipalities more flexibility to not implement the bill if it becomes law. It later was approved on a narrow 8-7 vote.

“The fact is, this is a bad piece of legislation,” he said.

Danielson said McCoy’s amendment negatively affects the bill because the language in it would require every city and municipality to vote on whether to legalize consumer fireworks. He said his original bill had a feature that would automatically implement the law then leave it up to a community to opt out. He called McCoy’s action a “poison pill amendment.”

Danielson plans to challenge it if the bill makes it to a floor vote in the Senate.

“I think it makes the bill unenforceable and difficult to administer from a state perspective,” he said.

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