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Lawmaker is calling for a special session on banning fireworks

SALT LAKE CITY – Can a city be sued if they are banning fireworks this late in the year? One lawmaker believes it’s a very real possibility, and she wants lawmakers to hold a special session to clarify what cities can do.

When Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced citywide banning of the launching of fireworks, she told reporters she was confident she was within her authority to enact it. 

Representative Todd Weiler told KSL’s Dave and Dujanovic cities are allowed to enact bans if they feel they need to.

Doesn’t that settle the debate? No, not even close.

Representative Suzanne Harrison has spoken with elected officials in Sandy and Draper, and she said they have a very different take than Mendenhall.

Harrison said, “They feel that they don’t have blanket authority to do a citywide ban for the safety of residents.”

Even if the law allows municipalities to ban fireworks, Harrison said the statute does nothing to protect cities from litigation. She tweeted an email from the Legislative General Counsel which reads, in part…

“Given these requirements, while many municipalities could use this provision to limit fireworks throughout a significant area of each municipality, attempting to prohibit them throughout an entire municipality would seem to violate both the letter and intent of the statutory limitations.” 

Harrison is calling for a special session of the legislature so lawmakers can clarify what municipalities are allowed to do and to offer some sort of legal protection for cities that implement bans. However, she tweeted her frustration after hearing the news that a special session would not be called.

She said, “Real freedom is not worrying about your house going up in flames because of our excessive drought and fire conditions, right now.”

Harrison said she’s hearing rumors that fireworks companies are already planning lawsuits against Salt Lake City. Officials from TNT Fireworks reported they’re not preparing any litigation, yet. 

Safety Expert James Fuller said they want to work with cities to learn why they implemented bans.

“We’re trying to understand what provision in the fireworks law that have used to determine they have the authority to implement an all-out ban on fireworks,” according to Fuller.

However, Fuller said if those discussions break down, they’re keeping all options on the table.

He explained, “We hope litigation is not the next step. That is not our objective.”