Texas firework vendors are, not surprisingly, open to a legislator’s effort to expand the number of days a year they can sell fireworks in the state.
The Texas House of Representatives’ Committee on County Affairs on Tuesday heard testimony on two bills that would allow the sale of fireworks for two additional holidays: Labor Day and Juneteenth.
“I appreciate any extra days that we have,” said Randy Martin, a former police officer who told the committee he was trying to get into the fireworks business with a stand in Galveston County.
In 2015, the legislature passed a law expanding the periods when fireworks sales are legal to include Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day and Memorial Day. It did not include Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in Texas and that has roots in Galveston.
Including the additional holidays wasn’t as lucrative as vendors had hoped, although it did bring more people to his business, Martin said.
“We educated a lot of people,” about Texas Independence Day, he said. The holiday is celebrated on March 2. “People would come in and ask what we’re open for.”
Other vendors who testified also supported the bills, which would allow fireworks to be sold in two weeks leading up to each holiday.
The bill was authored by Rep. James White, a Houston Democrat.
Making the sale of fireworks available for Juneteenth would help bring more attention to the holiday, White said.
“It helps to commemorate a day that deserves our recognition,” White told the committee Monday.
White intended to submit substitute bills that allowed counties to use discretion on whether to allow fireworks sales on a case-by-case basis. The move was welcomed by county government groups, who were concerned about losing the ability to regulate sales in places where fireworks could be dangerous.
The bill does not prevent cities from passing their own local ordinances, prohibiting or limiting fireworks with their boundaries.
Galveston, for instance, has an often-ignored law prohibiting fireworks from being used within the city limits. No such prohibition exists in unincorporated areas of the county. County commissioners could choose to prohibit sales of fireworks in those areas, which would theoretically limit the number of fireworks launched there.
“We want to make sure that we’re working with our local government folks in a cooperative way,” White said.
The committee left both bills — House Bill 41 and House Bill 554 — pending.