Some might look at all the bills filed and wonder how we survived the 320 days the Legislature was not in-session. I say this tongue in cheek because there are a great many folks who wonder why on earth we need any new laws; things are just fine as they are.
There are only a handful of bills each year that fall into the category of critical, meaning their failure or passage will have a huge impact on life as we know it. The various budget bills fall into this category. If not passed, all State departments will run out of money and shut down July 1, 2011. For instance teachers and state troopers wouldn’t be paid and you can imagine the chaos that might cause.
The vast majority of bills fall somewhere between critical and superfluous. One of my favorite bills so far this session deals with fireworks. As almost every Utahn knows, we have pretty strict firework laws that ban bottle rockets and other exciting aerial rockets from use by the average citizen. Wyoming, however, does not have the same ban and allows a wider range of firework products to be sold to the public.
This has created a firework bootlegging and enforcement problem that has existed for decades. We likely could have continued to live with it, but Rep. Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) decided there must be a better way to regulate fireworks. Surely the Highway Patrol had better things to do than watch the road to and from Evanston, Wyo. and couldn’t families safely enjoy fireworks with a little more pop and bang than what was currently available?
After a crash course on fireworks, consultations with the State Fire Marshal and discussions with major fireworks manufactures, Rep. Dunnigan discovered there was some middle ground that would allow for fireworks called “cakes” and “aerial repeaters” that were significantly more exciting and spectacular than what was currently allowed, yet were safe for the average person to operate in our dry climate.
He also took a look at the goofy time restrictions concerning when fireworks could be purchased and used (in case you were wondering, the dates didn’t match) and made it so if it can be purchased, it can be legally ignited. His bill has passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s action. The bill should make life easier for law enforcement and keep families (particularly teenage boys) happy during the holidays.
This is just one of the 450-500 new laws that will be passed. As you can see, we likely could have lived without it, but Independence and Pioneer Days will surely be better for it!
Brad Wilson represents House District 15 in Davis County. He is writing weekly articles during the legislative session about hot topics. He can be reached at Bradwilson@utah.gov during the legislative session.