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Mon, Feb. 17

Fireworks, rainwater harvesting bills don't make it into law

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a change to the state's new fireworks law, while a committee chair from Glendale killed a bill that would have created a committee to study the idea of a new water right for rainwater harvesting.

The Legislature ended its session April 20, sending hundreds of bills to the governor, who then had until Monday to decide what to do with them.

Rainwater harvesting bill held in committee

House Rules Committee Chair Jerry Weiers of Glendale held Senate Bill 1522 for weeks until it died, even though it was amended from creating a new category of water to just creating a study committee. The bill's sponsor was Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce, R-Prescott.

"I never heard of a study committee being subjected to this kind of politics," said Yavapai County Supervisor and former state legislator Carol Springer, who came up with the idea for the bill.

The bill would have created a committee to study the idea of creating a new water-rights category of harvested rainwater. A committee report would be due by the end of 2012.

Springer, who has a long history of involvement in state water issues, sees a harvested rainwater right as the answer to the Prescott Active Management Area's water shortage. Local governments and subdivisions could capture rainwater on a large scale and get 50 percent credits for groundwater in exchange.

Spokespersons from the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Salt River Project said they supported the bill as amended.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said he asked Weiers why he held the rainwater harvesting bill and Weiers responded, "I really don't like study committees."

Weiers' office said he is unavailable for comment for a week because he's out of state where he has no cellphone coverage.

"I think we accomplished a major goal. We put the issue on the table," Springer said. "I'm encouraged by the fact that we had a tremendous amount of support throughout the state.

"This is not something that's going to go away."

Fireworks veto

Gov. Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1379 late Friday. Her action effectively leaves the 2010 fireworks law in place.

"I support the ability for each city and county to assess its own unique circumstances and make the appropriate decision at the local level," the governor wrote in her veto letter, citing Arizona's varied landscape.

Under the current law, while local governments can ban the use of fireworks, especially during times of high wildfire danger, they cannot ban their sale. That law went into effect Dec. 1.

SB 1379, introduced by Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, tried to amend the 2010 law to 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 would have allowed counties to ban fireworks in unincorporated areas when there is a "reasonable risk of wildfires."

Antenori later accepted an amendment from Pierce to carve out a broader exception for Yavapai and Coconino counties. That amendment would have prohibited 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.

Pierce originally sponsored a separate bill this year that would have allowed local governments to prohibit the sale of fireworks in their jurisdictions. It died in the Senate.

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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