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Sen. Gowan defends himself against conflict of interest allegations for sponsorship of fireworks measure

David Gowan

David Gowan

A Sierra Vista lawmaker who sells fireworks around certain holidays is defending his proposal to expand the number of days when Arizonans can buy and use them.

Republican Sen. David Gowan called it “goofy” for anyone to say he has a conflict of interest because he sells fireworks to consumers during the current periods allowed by law. He told Capitol Media Services he is one of perhaps hundreds of outlets, both in stores and tents, where people can buy sparklers, fountains and smoke devices.

Gowan also pointed out that Arizona has a “citizen Legislature,” where lawmakers are expected to have outside employment.

“It’s about business that I know about and I’m trying to perpetuate,” he said. And Gowan said the amount of money he makes from this outside business is far less than the $24,000 paid to legislators.

The question of Gowan’s involvement arose last week as the House was debating SB 1348 where foes of the bill questioned why other lawmakers were approving something that benefits a fellow legislator.  Current law permits the sale of “consumer fireworks” around Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The legislation would add the period around the festival of Diwali which is celebrated among people who have Asian Indian roots.

But the potentially bigger market for sales comes from another provision in the bill which adds days around Cinco de Mayo.

Gowan said too much is being made of his sponsorship of the measure.

“It’s not like I’m making a million dollars putting something through personally,” he said, describing his sole tent he sets up on available holidays in the Phoenix area as just a small portion of fireworks sales in the state.

“Every box store carries them,” Gowan said. And he said there’s nothing improper about expanding the number of days where he – and everyone else – can sell them.

Does he believe that extra days will mean he will sell more?

“I don’t know,” he said, saying he might not even erect his tent during the extra days.

Still, Gowan said he would have no problem with having no limit on the number of days fireworks can be sold.

“You’ve got Utah and you’ve got New Mexico, where they sell year-round,” he said. “We lose a tremendous amount of sales tax dollars to these other states.”

And Gowan said there’s no doubt that people are buying items such as mortars elsewhere and bringing them back.

Legislative rules generally do not bar lawmakers from proposing or voting on measures that could result in financial benefit if many others would get the same benefit.

The measure gained preliminary House approval on a voice vote and awaits a final roll-call vote before going to the governor. It already has been approved by the Senate on a 17-13 margin.

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