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Tue, Aug. 20

Bill awaiting governor's signature would expand fireworks use - except locally

A bill waiting on the governor's desk would make it easier for Arizonans to use fireworks during the Independence and New Year's holiday seasons, but it also would add stronger restrictions in Yavapai and Coconino counties.

It's one of two bills that sought to change the fireworks law that took effect Dec. 1.

Fireworks had been illegal throughout Arizona for years until the Legislature and governor approved limited use and sales in 2010.

The 2010 law allows the sale and use of certain kinds of fireworks such as sparklers and spinners, but not firecrackers or bottle rockets. The law allows municipalities and counties to opt out and prohibit the use of the fireworks within their jurisdictions, but they can't prohibit the sales.

Numerous municipalities and counties chose to ban the use of fireworks.

Responding to concerns from the Prescott Valley Town Council about wildfires and confusion over the law, Sen. Steve Pierce of rural Prescott sponsored Senate Bill 1388 this year to allow municipalities, as well as counties with populations smaller than 3 million, to prohibit the sales of fireworks. Counties with larger populations could prohibit the sales only if "a reasonable risk of wildfires exists."

Pierce said the Coconino County Board of Supervisors also asked for his help to ban the sales.

Pierce's bill failed on its third read in the Senate and died. Pierce said the fireworks lobby got to several of his fellow Republicans. Supporters of Pierce's bill included Sen. Scott Bundgaard, who co-sponsored Pierce's bill and represents much of Yavapai County in Legislative

District 4.

In the meantime, a fireworks bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Antenori, who represents the Tucson area, continued to move through the legislative process and on to the governor's desk.

Gov. Jan Brewer has until May 2 to sign it, veto it or let it become law without her signature. The Legislature approved the bill during its last day in session.

Antenori's Senate Bill 1379 would amend the new law and force local governments to allow the use of the specified fireworks between June 15 and July 5, then again between Dec. 12 and Jan. 2. The only exception is that counties could ban fireworks in unincorporated areas when there is a "reasonable risk of wildfires."

But then Antenori accepted an amendment from Pierce that would effectively carve out a brand new, broader exception that currently works only for Yavapai and Coconino counties. That amendment would prohibit the sale and use of any fireworks in counties with populations lower than 500,000 and federal lands covering between 2.5 million and 5 million acres.

It's always illegal to use fireworks at any time on federal lands, including national parks, national forests and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.

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