Branstad signs fireworks bill; vendors eager to sell in Iowa

May 9, 2017 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad legalized the sale of bottle rockets, roman candles and most other consumer fireworks Tuesday, signing a bill that has sparked enthusiasm from vendors eager to expand into the state.

Branstad signed the bill at a Capitol ceremony surrounded by fireworks vendors and lawmakers, some of whom have worked for years to pass legislation that ends Iowa’s nearly 80 year ban on such explosives. Most of Iowa’s neighbors already allow the sales of most fireworks, as do 43 other states across the country.

“Let the fireworks begin,” Branstad said after signing the bill into law.

Some retailers who attended the ceremony are eager to get started.

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Jason Marietta, retail sales director for Jake’s Fireworks, said the Pittsburg, Kansas-based company is planning to open 70 to 100 temporary Iowa locations. The company has lobbied in favor of the legalization for three years and has worked for months to prepare for anticipated Fourth of July sales in Iowa.

“With the late passage of the law, we’re really scrambling against the clock,” he said. “But we finally got it passed, and I’m happy to see it.”

Vince Bellino, manager for Papillion, Nebraska-based Bellino Fireworks, said his company expects to open about 50 locations in Iowa with four or five permanent stores. They operate over 100 Nebraska locations.

“We’re excited for the opportunity to expand into the Iowa market,” he said. “It’s a very easy fit for us.”

The law allows sales between June 1 and July 8 as well as from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3 from licensed shops. Temporary firework stands will be allowed June 13 to July 8.

Several vendors have already started working with land owners and businesses to lease parking lot space for their temporary structures.

Under the law, local governments may forbid the use of fireworks, but not the sale of them. However, cities can limit sales to certain zones, as officials in the Des Moines suburb of Clive are considering.

Clive Assistant City Manager Matt McQuillen said city planners are still researching potential firework sales regulations.

“Since it was prohibited in the state of Iowa, it wasn’t spoken to in our initial zoning regulations,” he said. “Our staff is playing catch up.”

Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey are the only states to uphold a full ban on firework sales, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

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Julie Heckman, the association’s executive director, said more states have been legalizing firework sales since 2000, in part because of the tax revenue gained from such moves. Firework sales in Iowa are expected to bring in about $1.5 million in sales tax revenue for the 2018 fiscal year, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.