Bill limiting sales of sparklers in Arizona advances - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Bill limiting sales of sparklers in Arizona advances

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Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 9:31 am | Updated: 9:34 am, Wed Mar 23, 2011.

If you want to celebrate with sparklers you may have to mark your calendar.

On a 6-3 vote Tuesday the House Government Committee voted to limit the sale of sparklers and similar devices to just the three weeks up to Independence Day and three weeks before New Year's Day. SB 1379 also would restrict the use of these items to the same three weeks.

And residents of and visitors to Coconino and Yavapai counties would be entirely out of luck: The bill bans their sale and use year round.

The move comes less than five months after the law legalizing sparklers took effect.

It precludes cities and counties from enacting any restrictions at all, any time of the year, on the sale of these items.

It did allow cities to impose restrictions on use of some of these items. And county supervisors also could issue limited bans.

But lobbyist Mike Williams who represents the manufacturer of what are legally called "consumer fireworks'' acknowledged the law created some confusion over what cities could and could not do. And it was not clear whether sparklers themselves were subject to any local regulation at all.

This is designed to clear that up with a single statewide rule.

Williams said some cities expressed concern with the oversight and enforcement necessary to ensure that the items are both sold and used in a safe fashion. To satisfy their concerns, that year-round sale provision was sliced by 46 weeks.

But the trade-off is that cities lose any right at all to restrict how sparklers can be used, at least during that same six weeks.

The legislation does give cities one right they did not have before: They can now ban the sale of sparklers in residential neighborhoods. This is an issue because the sellers of these seasonal items often set up roadside tents.

Even in its new form, the legislation still bans the sale of anything that explodes like firecrackers or M-80s or anything that shoots into the air, like bottle rockets. What's left, aside from hand-held sparklers, are fountains and wheels that shoot off sparklers and toy smoke devices.

Williams said the decision to make Coconino and Yavapai counties totally sparkler-free is based on the fact that much of the land in both is national forest, where sparkler use already is prohibited by federal law. He said it made no sense to allow the items to be sold in Flagstaff or Prescott with the chance that buyers then would take them into rural -- and flammable -- areas.

The bill now goes to the full House.

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