July 4 thread: Legalized fireworks in Iowa

During the action-packed legislative session, I never got around to writing about the bill making fireworks sales legal in Iowa for the first time in 79 years. Even if you hadn’t heard about the change in state law, you’ve probably noticed more fireworks going off in your neighborhood at all hours of the night lately, or seen complaints about the phenomenon on your social media feeds. Although numerous local ordinances restrict the use of fireworks to a short window on or close to the 4th of July, many enthusiasts either don’t know or don’t care. I haven’t heard of many people being fined for ignoring those rules.

I’m no fan of do-it-yourself fireworks, which can be triggering for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many veterans say unexpected or “random” explosions near their homes are more upsetting than large municipal fireworks displays, which happen at predictable times.

Amateur fireworks also cause many preventable injuries. So far this year, a Davenport teenager lost a hand, and a woman in Shueyville has third-degree burns after “a multi-shot box misfired sending a projectile” into her lap. Her four-week-old infant was lucky to escape with only cuts and a broken leg after the quick-thinking mom “tossed the baby aside before the firework exploded.”

Iowa’s long ban on fireworks sales was inspired by major fires, in particular the 1931 blaze that destroyed downtown Spencer. When House members debated Senate File 489 in April, Democratic State Representative Tim Kacena warned about incidents he had seen as a firefighter in Sioux City. Already this year, amateur fireworks have caused several serious fires, one burning down an abandoned farm house near a friend’s residence in Wayne County.

Support for the fireworks bill didn’t fall strictly along party lines. After the jump I’ve posted the Iowa House and Senate roll calls, so you can find out whom to credit or blame, depending on your perspective. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

For those interested in the events that made July 4 a day worth celebrating, I recommend a trip Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was drafted, approved, and signed in 1776. My family recently traveled there for the first time. The highlight was the phenomenal Museum of the American Revolution, possibly the best historical museum I’ve ever seen. Plan to spend at least three or four hours there to make the most of the exhibits.

The National Constitution Center is also worth at least a half-day. My favorite parts were the temporary exhibit on the rise and fall of Prohibition, a permanent display featuring books that inspired the founding fathers, and an interactive feature (accessible on the center’s website) showing the influences on each amendment in the Bill of Rights. My kids’ favorite part of the Constitution Center was an area where you can vote for past presidents after reading genuine campaign statements about ten issues, not attached to either candidate’s name.

The Iowa Senate approved Senate File 489 on March 21 by 34 votes to 14. State Senator Jake Chapman was the floor manager.

Iowa Senate supporters of legalized fireworks included 27 Republicans:

Jake Chapman
Bill Anderson
Jerry Behn
Rick Bertrand
Mike Breitbach
Mark Chelgren
Mark Costello
Dan Dawson
Bill Dix
Jeff Edler
Randy Feenstra
Julian Garrett
Thomas Greene
Dennis Guth
Craig Johnson
Tim Kapucian
Tim Kraayenbrink
Mark Lofgren
Ken Rozenboom
Charles Schneider
Jason Schultz
Mark Segebart
Amy Sinclair
Roby Smith
Jack Whitver
Brad Zaun
Dan Zumbach

Seven Democrats also voted for the bill:

Chaz Allen
Tod Bowman
Jeff Danielson
Bill Dotzler
Wally Horn
Jim Lykam
Rich Taylor

Independent David Johnson voted against the bill, joined by thirteen Democrats:

Tony Bisignano
Joe Bolkcom
Nate Boulton
Bob Dvorsky
Rita Hart
Rob Hogg
Pam Jochum
Kevin Kinney
Liz Mathis
Matt McCoy
Janet Petersen
Herman Quirmbach
Amanda Ragan

Republicans Waylon Brown and Tom Shipley were absent.

State Representative Matt Windschitl floor managed the fireworks bill in the Iowa House, where representatives approved it on April 18 by 56 votes to 41.

Fifty Republicans voted for the bill:

Chip Baltimore
Terry Baxter
Brian Best
Jane Bloomingdale
Jim Carlin
Gary Carlson
Peter Cownie
Dave Deyoe
Cecil Dolecheck
Dean Fisher
Joel Fry
Pat Grassley
Stan Gustafson
Chris Hagenow
Kristi Hager
Mary Ann Hanusa
Greg Heartsill
Dave Heaton
Lee Hein
Jake Highfill
Ashley Hinson
Steve Holt
Chuck Holz
Dan Huseman
Mega Jones
Bobby Kaufmann
David Kerr
Jarad Klein
John Landon
Shannon Lundgren
Gary Mohr
Norlin Mommsen
Tom Moore
Zach Nunn
Ross Paustian
Dawn Pettengill
Ken Rizer
Walt Rogers
Sandy Salmon
Mike Sexton
Larry Sheets
David Sieck
Linda Upmeyer
Guy Vander Linden
Ralph Watts
Skyler Wheeler
John Wills
Matt Windschitl
Gary Worthan
Louis Zumbach

Six Democrats also supported legalizing fireworks:

Ako Abdul-Samad
Dennis Cohoon
Chris Hall
Charlie McConkey
Rick Olson
Mary Wolfe

Eight Republicans voted against Senate File 489:

Rob Bacon
Michael Bergan
Clel Baudler
Tedd Gassman
Kevin Koester
David Maxwell
Andy McKean
Rob Taylor UPDATE: A reader who was in the House chamber during this debate informs me that Taylor initially pushed the button to support the bill but switched his vote to “no” after he saw that 51 other GOP representatives were willing to pass it.

Thirty-three Democrats opposed the bill:

Marti Anderson
Bruce Bearinger
Liz Bennett
Wes Breckenridge
Timi Brown-Powers
John Forbes
Mary Gaskill
Lisa Heddens
Tim Kacena
Curt Hanson
Lisa Heddens
Bruce Hunter
Chuck Isenhart
Dave Jacoby
Jerry Kearns
Bob Kressig
Vicki Lensing
Mary Mascher
Brian Meyer
Helen Miller
Amy Nielsen
Jo Oldson
Scott Ourth
Todd Prichard
Kirsten Running-Marquardt
Mark Smith
Ras Smith
Art Staed
Sharon Steckman
Todd Taylor
Phyllis Thede
Beth Wessel-Kroeschell
Cindy Winckler

Republican Greg Forristall and Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Ruth Ann Gaines were absent.

Top image: Fireworks sales tent in a Windsor Heights parking lot, late June 2017.

  • I appreciate this information

    I hope we’ll get thorough coverage of how this first firework season went in Iowa after it is over. I have heard some illegal fireworks in my area.

  • IF this is any indication...

    …of what’s to come now that fireworks are legal, we are going to have to do some serious soul searching. The same people who were skirting the law before they were legal are now pushing their lust for patriotic mayhem even further (like into my backyard)
    I will not be surprised to see the next city council meeting flush with people complaining about the disrespect for safety, property and sanity that this bs has unleashed. Highland Park, (no haven for snowflakes believe me) had the smell of black powder (like my old Roy Rogers cap guns) so strong I was literally forced back inside my house. It is currently 11:30pm and there are multiple strong explosions still going on around the area and someone in my neighborhood thinks nothing of blowing his roman candle-style explosives over the trees and into our yard.
    After monitoring my police radio all evening, I can say without hesitation that it has been hell for the police tonight. Scores of domestic incidents, fireworks-related panic attacks, unfriendly interactions with neighbors and general mayhem–all because somebody wanted to….what?
    Tell you one thing though, it looks like once a year, we’ll get a chance to experience the ambience of life in Beirut, Benghazi or Yemen. This does not feel like American Independence Day.

  • Bleeding hearts deceive

    The 1931 blaze that destroyed downtown Spencer mentioned in this article was caused by a sparkler. The Davenport boy who lost his hand was 15 and not legally able to buy fireworks anyway.
    “Support for the fireworks bill didn’t fall strictly along party lines.” Maybe not “strictly”, but most Democrats voted against it, while most Republicans voted for it.

  • Too Close to Home!

    Well, It’s 3:30am and I’m still keyed up about the events of last night. 2 minutes after I closed my previous comment, my partner screamed that the house next door was on fire. Yes, my next door neighbor who had been dangerously shooting off roman candle-type fireworks all evening, set his own house on fire requiring a 4 engine response to a 700 square foot house in highland park.
    I used my garden hose to literally save his house tonight. FD arrived but only after I knocked down the worst of the flames with my hose. I don’t know how to post pictures here or I’d show you photos of my neighbors scorched home.
    Yes, they were intoxicated, yes they were really careless, but most of all, they were dismissive of my warnings about safety reminding me that “it’s legal now..”
    Considering the extra load on police, fire and ambulance this evening, I would hope those who supported this chaos would reconsider their actions. Truly scary tonight. It’s now 4am and I still can’t relax. Bahhh.

  • Disappointing

    We went to watch the fireworks in West Des Moines last night, as we have done nearly every year for as long as I can remember. The crowd is usually thick, but well-behaved, and appreciative of the fireworks. The police regularly patrol the area on their carts and bicycles. But last night was different. The late afternoon rain shower had thinned the crowd (many of which often come and stay for the entire day), though many, like us, were just coming in for an evening picnic to watch the fireworks. It was overall not as crowded as usual. I should add that signs at the gate to the park clearly stated that no fireworks were allowed in the park (Raccoon River Park). But as dusk settled in, people began to bring out their personal fireworks. First it was just smaller children with sparklers, like past years, which is always sweet. I started to notice, though, that the police patrols had disappeared. And then the adults brought out the real fireworks – the roman candles, small bursts, etc. The groups to both our right and left were doing this, and they were going off right over our heads. We saw some fireworks tip over and explode sideways in the area in front of us. But we could see them in every direction, both near and farther away. This continued throughout the fireworks display put on by the city. What is normally a quiet time as people “oooh” and “aaah” the fireworks was chaotic, with these multiple blasts throughout the park, and people talking with loud voices. There was little consideration shown for others by the people lighting the fireworks. It was disappointing. I usually leave uplifted, but not this year.

  • Thank you

    Thank you for these detailed informative comments. I’m glad you weren’t injured yourselves!

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