Sen. Richard Hilderbrand opposed a bill to make fireworks sales legal year-round in Kansas because an amendment requiring counties to opt-in. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — An effort to allow certain Kansas retailers to sell fireworks year-round fell well short of the needed votes Monday, after some state Senators raised concerns about an amendment that could have lead to a fireworks ban.
The bill would have allowed retailers that are open year-round to sell fireworks from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, and seasonal retailers from June 15 to July 6. Currently, all vendors may sell only from June 27 to July 5.
However, an amendment by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, would have required all Kansas counties to opt-in to firework season. That means retailers currently selling could be at risk of seeing their fireworks sales outlawed if county officials did not opt-in.
“Fireworks are an important part of our celebrations in the state of Kansas from our Independence Day celebration to celebrate the freedom of the United States to when your favorite football team or baseball team either hits a homerun or scores a touchdown,” said Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, R-Baxter Springs. “I believe that should not be something that you need to opt into.”
The measure failed with only two votes in favor and 34 votes against. Sen. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson, and Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, voted in favor of the bill.
Before adding the amendment, supporters of the measure said the bill would make Kansas more competitive with bordering states. For example, Missouri allows fireworks sales for seasonal retailers from June 20 to July 10 and from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2, while stores open year-round are able to sell them all year.
Opponents of the bill also said they feared allowing seasonal retailers a longer period of operation could hurt mom and pop stores. While the measure would not have changed the period during which Kansans can shoot fireworks legally, some senators worried more sales would inevitably lead to unsupervised and unapproved use, which would increase the threat of wildfires.
This article was used by permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.