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Fireworks regulation focus of House bill

Vick co-sponsors measure blasted by area's lobbyist; backers want uniform rules

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published:
2 Photos
Fireworks are for sale at a stand in Vancouver in 2012.
Fireworks are for sale at a stand in Vancouver in 2012. Photo Gallery

Sponsors: Reps. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, and Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace.

Summary: Cities and counties can enact stricter regulations on fireworks when it comes to days and hours of sale, but could not conflict with state law when it comes to standards for retail fireworks stands.

On the Web: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2015&bill=1702

A 1,190-word bill regulating firework stands could prove to be more incendiary this legislative session than some lawmakers anticipated.

Southwest Washington lobbyist Mark Brown blasted the measure to a panel of lawmakers in Olympia on Wednesday and voiced concern it would diminish local control when it comes to regulating fireworks. A fireworks industry lobbyist, who supports the bill, said the measure is about enforcing laws already on the books.

If the measure were to pass, Brown testified, local cities and counties would lose the ability to regulate the number of firework stands within their borders, which type of permits could be issued to firework retailers and if any conditions are placed on permits.

Sponsors: Reps. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, and Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace.

Summary: Cities and counties can enact stricter regulations on fireworks when it comes to days and hours of sale, but could not conflict with state law when it comes to standards for retail fireworks stands.

On the Web: <a href="http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2015&bill=1702">http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2015&bill=1702</a>

“The fireworks industry, they are very aggressive. They aren’t really interested in anything other than selling fireworks,” Brown later told The Columbian.

Jerry Farley, lobbyist for some of the largest fireworks outlets in the state, which are backing the measure, said the fire marshals and other lobbyists who testified against the bill either didn’t know what they were talking about or were purposefully misconstruing the measure.

The issue is not determining the scope of local authority, Farley said. The problem, he continued, is that some local jurisdictions are not abiding by existing “state pre-emptive rules” and fire marshals aren’t enforcing the laws on the books. For example, he said, there are some cities and local jurisdictions that are making fireworks retailers put a fence around their tent or requiring them to be set back a certain distance from a building.

“It has to do with jurisdictions (that are trying to) assert powers they do not have and the unwillingness of the state fire marshal to enforce those (laws),” Farley said.

In some parts of the state, cities and local jurisdictions are overreaching, he said, and violating existing statutes.

“I would like to be six inches taller. It’s not going to happen,” he said.

The worst part, Farley said, is the local fire marshals who are following county ordinances are in some cases ignoring state rules.

Farley likened it to having a friend who is being “sexually abused and you called up the police” and they do nothing.

“In a less significant way,” he added.

Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida, who signed on as a sponsor to the measure, House Bill 1702, said he thought the bill to be “innocuous.”

Cities and counties would continue to be able to enact more restrictive ordinances regulating the days and hours fireworks could be sold, the days and hours for the use of fireworks and the type of fireworks that could be sold within their boundaries.

But when it comes to standards for selling fireworks, the regulations should be uniform and enforced by the state fire marshal, Vick said, and the measure aims to clarify that.

“If you look at what’s already in the bill, there aren’t many changes,” Vick said. “Because the fireworks stands are already supposed to be governed by the fire code.”

Columbian Political Writer

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