Department of Public Safety: Fireworks Inspections Fall Short

Jul 6, 2017

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has issued fireworks licenses to 664 retail dealers in Iowa in the first year of a new law authorizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks.

But officials say only about two-thirds of the required inspections were completed, due to a shortfall in time and resources.  

Department of Public Safety attorney Barbara Edmondson briefed state lawmakers on the Administrative Rules Review Committee on the new licensing program.  

There was a very short window for selling. -DPS Attorney Barbara Edmondson

She said it was a challenge implementing the program after Gov. Branstad signed the bill in May.

“There was a very short window for selling,” Edmondson said.   “We wanted to get licenses issued to the extent we could, and to ensure that there was a maximum opportunity for people to be successful with this.”

The State First Marshal’s Office absorbed the cost of reviewing plans and inspecting the vendors’ sites.   Thirty employees spent over 2500 hours on the project.  But the DPS says there wasn’t enough money or time to finish the job so some received provisional licenses.    

The program is being operated under emergency rules.    The DPS will write permanent rules at a later date.  

It is not clear if license revenues will cover all the costs. -Legislative Services Agency

Even some critics of the new law say officials did a good job getting the program up and running.

"Regardless of our position on this issue, you all are to be commended for putting this program together so quickly and making it work,” said Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque). 

“I will say that we took it seriously,” Edmondson said.

The DPS says dealers are following tax laws, including collecting sales taxes.  

According to the DPS, revenue to the state from license sales has totaled $224,988, while the State Fire Marshall has incurred $111,592 in costs.       

The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency suggests that the costs to the state may be higher.

“The … estimate was made with little consultation with the State Fire Marshal’s Office on actual costs,” the agency wrote in a fiscal analysis of the new rules.   “At this time it is not clear if license revenues will cover all of the costs incurred.”