Burn this bill

A bipartisan effort is underway to legalize the sale of dangerous fireworks in Iowa. It is a bad idea that will lead to injury, property loss and even more annoyance on and around the Fourth of July. If the legislation proceeds to a successful vote, Gov. Terry Branstad should veto it.

The reason fireworks are illegal is that they burned down 75 structures over four blocks of Spencer in 1931. A child lit a sparkler in a drug store, which set off firecrackers, bottle rockets and the like. The old wooden buildings quickly succumbed. Spencer rebuilt its impressive downtown in the Art Deco style, about the only good thing to come out of that massive fire. A similar tragedy was repeated in Remsen in 1936.

Iowa got along fairly well without firecrackers and M80s. If you really wanted to blow your thumb off, you could get your juvenile-acting parents to drive to South Dakota to get all the explosives you need. Since South Dakota has little more than decent fishing, the Black Hills and legal fireworks, we would hate to deny the state one of the three legs of its economy.

The medical establishment is against it. So is the law enforcement community, by and large. The fire chiefs don’t like it, either.

But the bill has its supporters. We aren’t certain why.

A child may shoot an assault rifle for fun on the Fourth of July, legally. Why mess with a Black Cat when you may legally shoot off a cannon — yes, a cannon. They shot one off after a Buena Vista football game last fall. We thought the Russians were coming. We hope they never do that again.

Guns and bullets kill people. Cannons can, but in most local usage are merely a frightening and unnecessary bother that drives the dog under the sofa to make a mess. But fireworks not only can maim and kill. They also can burn down entire towns from the negligence of a youth or a fool.

The bill allows a local option to deny fireworks sales, possession or use. If this bill becomes law, we certainly hope that Buena Vista County and Storm Lake have enough memory not to allow fireworks around here. We like our town. We would hate to see it burn down as Spencer did.

Making the party small

Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker blasted out an email Monday declaring that the GOP will take over the state senate and strengthen its majority in the Iowa House. “And we plan to do it with candidates who oppose tax hikes, stand firm on the right to life, defend the second amendment and promote Republican values.” Spiker encourages people with those values to run for local, state and federal office.

Is that what is left of the Republican Party?

No mention of world-class public schools and universities. Nothing about good roads. Not a peep about agriculture or building a bioeconomy around crops, livestock and new industrial applications. And certainly nothing about clean air and water.

Nothing about immigration. Nothing about local law enforcement. Nothing about an underfunded court system under which clerk’s offices were rendered part-time. And, nothing about community colleges and training a new workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.

None of that.

No new taxes. No limits on guns. No abortions.

That’s really all you need to know to be an effective candidate for the school board or board of supervisors or the statehouse.

It’s a simpleton slate.

We remember when the Iowa Republican Party stood for a vigorous commercial highway system. When it created the Iowa Tuition Grant to help needy students attend a private college. When it stood behind sheriffs seeking to lessen gun violence in their communities. When it loaded up the Board of Regents to build Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City and the fabulous Parks Library in Ames at Iowa State University.

Back then, with Terry Branstad as governor and Ronald Reagan as president, the Iowa Republican Party dominated the state’s politics. It represented Iowans who were concerned for the dwindling number of family farms, for deteriorating roads and bridges, and embracing immigrants in a way that no state had before — the Iowa Cares program.

It is a lesser party today built around guns, anti-gay rhetoric and no new taxes.

That is not a prescription for moving Iowa or the Republican Party forward.

By the way, when was the last time you heard the abortion issue discussed at a city council or county board meeting? We thought they were supposed to be talking about streets, culverts and cops. How times change.