The Iowa General Assembly passed legislation during the 2017 legislative session allowing for the sale and use of fireworks under certain conditions. Iowa previously prohibited the sale and use of most types of fireworks except those used by licensed professionals for displays and for novelty items such as toy smoke devices and sparklers. The legislation made a number of policy changes:
- Adds duties to the State Fire Marshal in order to regulate and license the selling of fireworks.
- Establishes fees and categories of licenses based on the type of group doing the selling, the structure the sales occur in and the type of fireworks being sold.
- Provides standards for the manufacture, transportation and storage of fireworks.
- Requires retailers to maintain commercial general liability insurance with a minimum of one million dollars per occurrence and aggregate coverage of at least two million dollars.
- Places additional registration requirements and fees on wholesalers of fireworks to be carried out by the State Fire Marshal.
- Further defines and categorizes types of consumer fireworks, display fireworks and novelties.
- License fees would be placed in a newly-created Consumer Fireworks Fee Fund to provide resources for the State Fire Marshal to enforce the new law. Funds would also be placed in the newly-created Local Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Service Providers Grant Program to fund fireworks safety and education efforts.
- Prohibits the sale of fireworks to any person who is less than 18 years of age.
- Provides for penalties for the illegal use of any fireworks and designates this as a simple misdemeanor. This includes use if prohibited by the city or state fire marshal and sales to those less than 18 years of age. Punishment is by a fine of not less than $250.
- Outlines the regulatory role of local government in regard to use of consumer fireworks in their jurisdiction (see below).
The new law contains a local control provision which gives cities the ability to prohibit or limit the use of fireworks within their communities. Those communities that choose to allow the use of fireworks have control over the date, time and locations that fireworks may be used. Cities choosing to allow fireworks should note that the legislation only allows the use of fireworks during two defined time periods: June 1 through July 8, and December 10 through January 3. A city may:
- Do nothing and allow the use of first-class fireworks to be used and sold within the city subject only to the provisions contained in state code.
- Prohibit the use of display or consumer fireworks throughout the year.
- Restrict dates, times and areas for the legal use of fireworks.
Current city code should be reviewed:
- Many cities have previously prohibited the possession and sale of fireworks; those city codes need to be changed to reflect current state law.
- If your city has an existing definition of fireworks that goes beyond referencing Code of Iowa 727.2 or a standard established by the American Pyrotechnics Association, it is likely in need of updating.
- Even though the new law says that cities can prohibit or limit use of consumer fireworks by ordinance or resolution, the actual definition of a simple misdemeanor included in Code 727.2 only refers to ordinances, not resolutions. As a result, it is advisable to make any enforceable policy change by ordinance.
- Definitions should be reviewed, but most cities will continue the same process to approve professional fireworks displays.
Sale of Fireworks
The state code specifically allows for a process to sell consumer, novelty and display fireworks. From a state perspective, sales are limited to those with a valid license, current inspection and proper insurance. Sales are limited to specific time periods based on the type of structure where the sales occur. A permanent building can conduct sales between June 1 and July 8 and again between December 10 and January 3. Temporary structures are only allowed to conduct sales between June 13 and July 8. From a city perspective, cities continue to have the ability to impact location of sales through zoning, fire codes and permitting. Some additional considerations:
- Cities do not have the ability to issue fireworks licenses.
- If qualified by the State Fire Marshal, a city can choose to inspect fireworks retailers rather than have the State Fire Marshal conduct inspections.
- Restrict sales of fireworks to certain zoning areas to provide for the safety of residents and the community.