State lawmakers agreed Thursday that members of the Indian community should have the right to use sparklers and similar fireworks for the festival of Diwali the same as other Arizonans can for other holidays.
On a voice vote, the House gave preliminary approval to legislation which spells out that “consumer fireworks” can be sold around the time of the fall festival. Current law restricts their sale and use to the time around Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
But it’s not just Diwali that is being recognized as a good time to light stuff up: For good measure, SB 1348 also would add the period around Cinco de Mayo as another time when Arizonans can buy and light fireworks. Diwali is a five-day festival of lights celebrated in India.
A final roll-call vote in the House will send the measure, which already has cleared the Senate, to the governor.
Thursday’s vote came with opposition of several Democrats who complained that these products give off toxic chemicals.
“Barium produces bright brilliant green colors even though it’s poisonous and, are you ready, radioactive,” complained Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe. And she cited other compounds that also are used in these products to produce different effects even though they can cause respiratory and other health problems.
Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said there’s a separate problem with particulates produced by consumer fireworks. She said Maricopa County is close to being declared a non-attainment area for certain kinds of fine dust, a situation that could result in sanctions by the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, said it would be wrong to use those concerns as an excuse to kill this proposal.
“If we’re concerned about air quality, we could pave all the dirt roads in Maricopa County,” he said. And Weninger said if people are really worried about the health effects of fireworks on Diwali they could run legislation to repeal the ability of Arizonans to light up the devices “on our traditional holiday.”
Rep. Amish Shah, D-Phoenix, told foes that their concerns about air pollution are overblown.
He pointed out that Arizona has restrictions on the types of fireworks that can be sold to consumers. That means no Roman candles or anything that can be shot in the air. In fact, actual firecrackers or things that blow up also are banned.
What that pretty much leaves are things like sparklers, ground spinners, smoke devices and cone fountains. And Shah said those in the small Indian community – about 1 percent of all Arizonans – should have the same ability as others to celebrate major holidays with fireworks as other state residents.
“Devali is a point of pride and probably is the biggest holiday for the Indian community,” he told colleagues.
“If you have the chance to go to Indian sometime you’ll know that during the celebration of Devali fireworks are very prominent,” Shah said. “It is like the tree to Christmas.”
The measure does add one new type of device to what would be legal to sell in Arizona during permitted periods: adult poppers. These were described as a beefed-up version of the toys used by children which explode when thrown onto a hard surface.