After two hours of sometimes contentious debate, the Iowa House today voted 56 to 41 to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Iowa, going along with the Senate, and clearing the way to send the bill down to the Governor for his signature.
Opponents warned of fires, injuries, and other traumas if the governor signs the bill.
Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) managed the bill, arguing for the personal freedom of Iowans.
He asked his colleagues what the 4th of July means to them.
“What does it mean to every American?” Windschitl asked. “When I think about the 4th of July I think about freedom, I think about fun, I think about fireworks.”
The bill allows the sale and use of consumer-grade fireworks, including bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles, around the 4th of July and New Year’s Day, with some limits on temporary kiosks to sell them.
Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville) quizzed Windschitl about the possibility of higher insurance rates if the governor signs the bill.
“How do I protect my freedom of paying my fair rates, not based on people who might be irresponsible fireworks users?” Jacoby asked.
"I suppose it depends on where you live, that location, and the relationship you have with your insurance providers," Windschitl said.
"Okay, because the insurance providers are telling me something different," Jacoby replied.
The bill allows local governments to ban the use of fireworks. The House voted down a Democratic amendment that would have also allowed cities or counties to ban their sale.
“It would be ridiculous to think you can control the usage when the sale is legal,” said Rep. Charlie McConkey (D-Council Bluffs.)
But Windschitl said Iowans should be able to buy fireworks no matter where they live.
“I don't believe they should be disenfranchised,” Windschitl said.
Two Republicans voting against the bill told personal stories of returning veterans being traumatized by the sound of fireworks.
“I do not think that the freedom to shoot fireworks and a few tax dollars are worth what we expect our veterans to pay even today,” said Rep. David Maxwell (R-Gibson). “I will be a no on this bill.”
And Maxwell objected to debating the bill when so many other more important issues face the state in the last days of the session.
"Bad bills rise phoenix-like from the mist," Maxwell said.
Under the bill, no one under 18 would be allowed to purchase fireworks, and stores would be banned from allowing fireworks to take up as much as 50% of their store space.
Governor Branstad has indicated support for the bill.
Windschitl dismissed other concerns about injuries from the careless use of fireworks.
“We can’t fix stupid,” he said, “and we can’t bubble-wrap Iowans.”