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AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) – Fireworks in Texas can only be sold during major holidays. That regulation could go up in smoke. Thursday, members of the House County Affairs Committee held a hearing on legislation to allow year round sales.
It was drafted by Houston Democrat Mary Ann Perez.
“This will also help to better regulate the fireworks industry,” said Rep. Perez.
HB 2748 only targets unincorporated areas of Texas and would not prevent cities from banning sales, only County Commissioners. Supporters of the bill point to Oklahoma which has had year round sales since 2010. “The counties have political agenda a lot of the times, and we would prefer it to be taken out of the county hands,” said Richard Fallin who is with the Texas Pyrotechnics Association.
“God help us if we start setting our state policy based on what Oklahoma does,” said James Allison with the County Judges and Commissioners Association.
Allison voiced another concern. Wildfire.
He cautioned that allowing fireworks to be sold everyday would increase fire risks. Allison believes the legislation will strip away county authority to allow sales and that can be an important prevention tool.
“There is an open question about whether burn bans apply to fireworks, rather to have to reach into that, we think local communities should be able to decide about fireworks specifically.”
At one point, the hearing got a tad volatile. It happened when a state lawmaker, in a surprise, played the race card. A proposal to deregulate fireworks sales on Cinco de Mayo caused a hot exchange with Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R) Fredericksburg. “The commission could say we are not going to allow the Hispanic community to have fireworks because we just don’t believe in that, isn’t that discriminating?” asked Rep. Biedermann.
Allison responded by saying, “I expect there would be more discussion, than that we don’t believe in that.” Allision later restated his objection is only about the loss of local control and that race should not play into the discussion at all.
The committee also considered several oother bills instead of year round sales. They would add new holidays to the state fireworks list. Some of the holidays are already on the state list but require local approval; like Texas Independence Day and San Jacinto Day. The proposed new holidays include Labor Day, Diwali and Juneteenth.
A regional restriction on Cinco de Mayo would also be lifted.
That idea is proposed by North Texas Republican Jonathan Stickland. He noted during the hearing, that on the popular day in May, fireworks can only be sold within 100 miles of the border.
“So for districts like myself, who have a growing and large Hispanic population, currently they are not able to enjoy some of the freedom, I would say, of other areas. So we’d like to take it statewide,” said Stickland.
Final committee votes on all the fireworks bills may come next month.