Times are tough this year, with countless individuals struggling to make ends meet in light of the economy. One seasonal profession could find it extra tough as a law in the second largest state in the US may snuff out some upcoming fun.
For many areas of the great state, drought conditions have created modifications in certain activities. For example, the water gardens found on the grounds of San Antonio's Hemisphere park Tower of the Americas area have been completely drained, leaving empty cement holes adorning the area. The reason? Water conservation in relation to stage 2 water restrictions.
And the same goes for certain areas around Houston such as Conroe, where the city was also placed in stage 2 restrictive phase. This means no watering or personal water activities such as washing the car can be done during daylight hours. What it also means is a burn ban due to drought conditions.
With the July 4th weekend just around the corner where celebrations across the state typically include fireworks, vendors may be seeing a significant downturn in sales as what are being called "arbitrary restrictions" on fireworks create issues.
According to an article in the Houston Chronicle regarding the recently amended state law on fireworks:
Most counties interpret the new rules to say: If the drought index, which measures soil conditions on a numerical scale from 0 to 800 reaches 575, county commissions have the option to restrict sales of those fireworks during the season. 2007 revision to state law allows counties to ban sales of certain fireworks if the Keetch-Byram Drought Index indicates drought conditions. Counties must adopt that order before June 15 to prohibit certain fireworks for the July 4 fireworks season.
What this means for firework vendors who rely on holidays such as American Independence Day and New Year's Eve for income is that they essentially must wait it out and see which county will ban and which one will allow for sales. Oddly enough, two bordering counties who receive the same amount of rainfall can end up with entirely different restrictions, with one county allowing for sales and another prohibiting those sales. Moreover, even though the June 15 deadline has come and gone, county Judges can make the declaration at any time leaving vendors who use the profits from the biggest event of the year as a means of feeding their families empty handed.
Montgomery county has implemented a ban on certain types of fireworks because the "expected" index is 575 on July 4th.
Some vendors are openly opposed to the ambiguity of the law, stating that they "can't count on anything in Texas." Others believe that vendor responsibility trumps sales, depending upon drought conditions, such as pulling aerial fireworks, but feel that the interpretations of the law encourage a wrongful act of being pushed around.
Even in cases where only specific types of fireworks are prohibited, lack of available resources for advertising as well as public service announcements being vague, the likelihood that consumers will misinterpret a ban is great. This creates a drop in sales.
By Texas law, the nearly 5,000 fireworks vendors in the state are restricted to sales between certain time frames. For example, the July 4th holiday time frame would be between June 24 and July 4. In the 7 years prior to the amended law, Harris County alone had nearly 260 fireworks mishaps that led to approximately $2 million US in damage. In 2007, there were 21 firework-related hospitalizations.
Although the weather conditions should play a significant role in the sales of the seasonal poppers, the reality that each of it's 254 counties have their own say up until the very end could have devastating consequences for individuals who rely on this industry as a source of income.