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PANEL DECLINES IDEA TO BYPASS FIREWORKS BILL

If passed, the bill could prevent Pasco from reining in fireworks sales.

The plan: Help Pasco County toughen its fireworks law, because the Legislature soon could pass a bill stopping it.

The tactic: State Rep. John Legg came up with an amendment Thursday allowing the County Commission to pass a resolution sidestepping the bill - a resolution not-so-coincidentally in the works for Tuesday.

The result: a dud.

The House Budget and Policy Council turned back Legg, R-Port Richey. When a voice vote started, no one spoke up in favor of Legg's change.

"I think that answers it," said Chairman Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, who didn't ask for nay votes before moving on.

The panel approved the bill, which stops local governments from restricting fireworks sales until lawmakers act next year on a report by a task force. New stores could not be built either.

The bill - an otherwise bland agriculture measure - takes effect July 1, but both bans are retroactive to March 8. Legg wanted to allow any county - but his in particular - to pass a resolution and escape the ban.

The vote cast more doubt on Pasco's proposal to require tighter permitting and record-keeping by sellers and limit sales to buildings with sprinkler system, ending the days of fireworks tents - and neighborhood complaints - spawning around holidays.

The Senate approved a similar bill.

"It was worth a shot, what the heck," said County Commissioner Michael Cox, an advocate who was to push the resolution Tuesday. He told commissioners last week he had hope despite the bill's success.

Legg said local governments were hurt without a window to act. Fireworks lobbyists lined up against Legg's proposal, saying retailers would be hurt to unfairly help a single county.

Legg said he persuaded the House leadership to delay the bill's final House vote that was scheduled next week. He wants to get rid of the retroactive date, which he said could be unconstitutional.

"All is not lost," he said.

David DeCamp can be reached at (727) 869-6232 or ddecamp@sptimes.com.

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