tampabay.com

Senate rejects 2 attempts to void bans on fireworks

"It's Monday. Don't we quit on Friday?" lobbyist Guy Spearman said when asked how many other bills he might try to amend.

By LUCY MORGAN
Published May 3, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to trump local ordinances outlawing fireworks.

The fireworks industry tried twice to pass the measure and failed both times.

The first attempt to attach the amendment to a building code bill was turned aside by Senate Rules Chairman Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

A few minutes later, the Senate killed the same amendment after Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, tried to attach it to a consumer protection bill.

One after another, lawmakers stood to question the amendment, which would have preempted laws passed by cities and counties to ban the sale of fireworks. Those ordinances were passed in response to a state law that is riddled with loopholes.

Pinellas and Manatee counties are among those with ordinances banning fireworks sales.

Baker compared the amendment to gun sales regulated by state law and not by counties.

The Florida Association of Fire Chiefs and counties where fireworks are banned opposed the amendment, which was quietly filed late Friday.

Lobbyist Guy Spearman was pushing the amendment for Galaxy Fireworks Inc. and other companies.

Spearman is a master at attaching amendments to bills in the closing days of a legislative session, when hundreds of bills pass. The session is scheduled to end Friday.

Asked how many other bills he might try to amend with the fireworks language, Spearman said: "I can't tell you that - you know better than that. It's Monday. Don't we quit on Friday?"

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch was pleased the amendment died. Welch, who led the effort to pass a fireworks ordinance, spent the weekend e-mailing and calling legislators to vote it down.

"Apparently, our phone calls and e-mails got through," Welch said.

--Times staff writer Michael Sandler contributed to this report.