Posted at: 02/20/2013 7:14 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2013 7:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
It was a close call, but a bill that would give local governments the power to ban fireworks sales during times of high fire danger survived its first challenge in the legislature Wednesday.
Practically every fire chief, fire marshal and firefighter in the state is backing the bill, but it barely squeaked by the House Energy and natural Resources Committee on a 6 to 5 vote.
The fireworks industry managed to kill the bill in committee last year, arguing that it's bad for business, and that still concerns the lawmakers who voted against it Wednesday. This time they came out on the short end.
The bill's sponsor is Democratic Rep. Emily Kane of Albuquerque, a firefighter with the Albuquerque Fire Department.
"I wasn't really expecting that we would come this far," Kane said after the vote. "I'm grateful and I'm willing to work with everybody. I would like to get something up there on the Governor's desk before the fire season."
Ah yes - the fire season. Despite this week's weather, it's right around the corner after another dry winter and another year of drought. That's why firefighters are so anxious for local governments to get the power to ban or restrict fireworks - all it takes is one spark.
"We're not trying to put anybody out of business," said Bernalillo County Fire Marshal Chris Gober, who testified for the bill Wednesday. "Chances are most of the time there won't be any restrictions, but when it's really bad - like it's going to be - we need to have that opportunity to be able to do that."
The bill still has a long way to go. It faces a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee and if it survives that it will go to the House floor for a vote. If it passes, it moves over to the state Senate, where the legislation will face more committees before a vote on the Senate floor.