Thanks to everyone who participated in reaching out to the members of the County Affairs committee last week. At this point in the session, a phone call or fax from a voter means much more than anything I or a fireman can say at a hearing.
The hearing on Monday got started late (yea, a shocker). In the House committees, it is standard practice to hear all bills in a given week and then vote on them at the beginning of the next week’s hearing. So, the meeting began with all of the members in attendance, voting on the bills from the previous week. After that, they began the actual hearing and many members departed.
On a positive note, you can see the members not really buying that counties should be able to ban fireworks any time they think there’s a “disaster” with no process and no advance notice. One county judge testified that he wanted more “local control.” That argument does not go well with these members.
We, the industry, did a great job of pointing out two factors with fireworks:
1) Counties don’t know what causes fires in Texas. 70% of grassfires are from unknown causes.
2) Fireworks cause less than 1% of fires in our state each year.
The “usual suspects” of fireworks haters were there: Mike Montgomery from Harris, the Midland, Bexar and Denton fire marshals. Comal took the cake with 5 salaried or elected officials there. I am glad I don’t pay taxes in their county. Bexar was a close second with 2.
Rep Lucio III from the Valley was impressive during his bill discussion. The good thing about his bill is that the fireworks people in large don’t like it and the counties really hate it. That’s often the start of a good compromise.
I had to leave about 6pm, so I didn’t catch the end of the hearing. Over the next week, we’ll continue to see what develops as the capitol office gets worked. We’ll keep you posted. Good news is that the session is 5 weeks from over. Bad news is that unless we fix the disaster declaration situation, this session will be a failure for those of us in all areas except for the greenest parts of the state.