- No substantial legislation passed either in favor or against consumer fireworks.
- Industry worked well to kill anti-fireworks legislation.
- Industry must have one voice through one association to stay in business
Status Quo Maintained
Entering the 2009 legislative session, the different fireworks constituents had different priorities. East Texas vendor priorities centered on Harris County regulating fireworks out business through building codes and Houston Limited Purpose Annexations (LPAs). West Texas vendors wanted to repair the disaster powers added in a back-room, late night conference committee in 2007 and fix the transportation issues. In the Valley, the dominant vendor wanted to deal with annexation of permanent stores by municipalities.
The counties wanted expanded powers for disaster declarations, building codes, and other regulation of fireworks including outright prohibition at their discretion. In the end, both sides stopped the process and no bills became law.
Industry Efforts Stop Anti-Fireworks Bills
Our three main lobbyists and the fireworks people did a fine job of killing anti-fireworks bills. It is worth noting that no anti-fireworks bills progressed out of either chamber of the House and many never left committees. At one point, a floor amendment to a house bill by Rep. Quintanilla was removed when members recalled the bill after it had already passed the house . The only two bills to leave the House were both positive bills, Rep Smith’s transportation bill being the most notable. No anti-fireworks bills even reached the Senate floor.
Industry Fragmentation Led to Failure
There are two major fireworks associations: the Texas Pyrotechnic Association (TPA) comprised of larger and mostly West Texas vendors and the Texas Fireworks Association (TFA), comprised of many smaller and a few large fireworks vendors with a few exceptions on each side. In addition, there are many vendors and manufacturers not involved in either association. My company, Alamo Fireworks, hired our own independent lobbyist and pursued our agenda.
It’s impossible in our current state of fragmentation to negotiate anything with counties. Legislators receive mixed messages and won’t act if they will fear a dissenting voice from another vendor. A legislator must have industry consensus to do battle with the Association of County Judges and/or the Association of Urban Counties. Here’s an excerpt of an email from Don Lee on 5/23/09, the lead lobbyist for the Council of Urban Counties:
“I will point out that the fireworks industry, much like counties, is a multi-headed lobby that rarely agrees on the same things. I cannot even keep track of the various fireworks associations and separate lobbyist. Even if you, Jim (Allison, the lobbyist for the Texas County Judges Association) and I were to reach agreement on something it would not include all of the industry and would likely immediately come under attack and attempts to change it.”
Passing laws is very tough in Texas and nothing will be accomplished while we are fragmented. The TFA, TPA and all the independent vendors must unite into a single association with a single voice. Even if some members disagree on particular issues we have to stop infighting and keeping secrets. This is imperative if we hope to stay in business and the only way we’re going to stay in business is through legislative changes.
As I write this today, Bexar County is talking disaster declaration and our KBDI is at 533, which does not even qualify as a drought under Texas Statutes. Even if your region will never suffer high fire danger, this concerns you. If companies like Mr. W, Alamo, American and TNT go out of business in West Texas, the industry as a whole will eventually die without us defending our industry in Austin. If the counties find drought as the means to get rid of us, they’ll use building codes or something else to run you out of business.