Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Revisions coming to law?

Jul 07, 2017

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Before opting to go verbatim with Iowa’s new fireworks law, most governmental bodies said the first year was a trial run.

Because the law was passed so late in the session, there was little time to study it before summer hit. And due to the fact that a new ordinance needs three readings for passage (unless a reading or two is waived), there was more than a little urgency in getting a new law on the books.

The state law allows cities to opt out of allowing the use (not allow fireworks to be discharged in the city) or can limit the days and hours of the discharge of fireworks in city limits.

Continuing, the statute allows the discharge of fireworks on June 1 through July 8. Fireworks can be shot off during the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., except on July 4 when they can be discharged between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

There is also a provision in the law that allows fireworks to be sold and discharged in December and the first three days of January, but that’s commentary for another time.

Purchasers of fireworks must be at least 18 years of age. Fireworks may be sold from permanent stands between June 1 and July 8. Sales from temporary structures (all local fireworks stands are temporary structures) can be between June 15 and July 8.

The maiden run of the law has been a source of contention, most people would say.

I have nothing against fireworks, I enjoy watching them and shot plenty before and while my children were at home. I made a few trips to Missouri during that time to get “the good stuff.”

My opinion hasn’t changed on fireworks — yet.

One night, the week before July 4, I looked out my picture window and saw large bottle rockets being launched in the backyard of a neighbor. He/she had plenty of company as fireworks filled the sky in north Mt. Pleasant.

Although the law says the discharging must cease at 10 p.m., a few of the neighbors’ timepieces were more than a tad slow.

Though I said I like fireworks, more than one person told me that fireworks were no friends to animals. One Mt. Pleasant woman said her dog went to the basement the first night fireworks erupted and hasn’t returned since.

Last week around 9:30 p.m., I stepped out for a breath of fresh air. The commodity was difficult to find. I felt I was in a war zone, ducking sparks and remnants of fireworks. Of course, there is some hyperbole in that last sentence, but it was not difficult to detect sparks and debris in the air.

As Independence Day drew nearer, the use of fireworks increased.

Talking with people in other communities, I am not alone in my belief that the law needs tweaking.

A person from Washington described the situation as awful, noting that it is really doing a number on her pets.

Another person from Cedar Rapids told me that if the city council doesn’t amend the law, she will vote against every one of the council members when they are up for election. She said it wasn’t worth calling the police because most of the people shooting fireworks would only do it for 15 minutes and by the time a patrolman arrived, the offenders would have quit.

You can’t blame government officials on this one ­— their crystal ball was as clear as the ball of an average citizen. Mt. Pleasant City Councilman Kent White probably said it best. During the three readings of the ordinance, he said government leaders will know “a lot more” after the first year. I don’t think it was a case of being naive; rather, nobody knew exactly how much usage would increase.

During discussions on the law, government officials said tweaking the law would make it difficult to enforce. Others said people have been shooting off fireworks for years and saw the new law making little, if any, difference.

I think, however, there was a big difference. Fireworks are much more accessible than they were in the past. Sure, the Missouri state line is just 30 miles away and you don’t even have to cross the river to see the first huge fireworks stand sign.

With fireworks stands only a few blocks away, it is much more convenient to stock up daily than it would be to make a 60-mile round trip. So, those people like me who made an annual trip south for fireworks are now making numerous visits to shop locally.

The real sadness is that many people think the Iowa Legislature passed the fireworks law for the revenue. I agree.

Mt. Pleasant’s City Council invited feedback on the law; I am quite certain they will receive some.

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