We’ve been patient with Sen. David Gowan’s legislative initiatives this session, giving him the benefit of the doubt on acts to expand private schools, expand gambling, prohibit cuts in police budgets and other proposals among the 53 bills he is sponsoring.
We draw the line on SB 1334, which proposes legalizing some types of aerial fireworks in Maricopa and Pima counties.
This initiative is a blatant effort by Sen. Gowan to generate more revenue opportunities for a company that pays him as a salesman. When he’s not representing electors in Legislative District 14, Sen. Gowan works for TNT Fireworks, one of the largest distributors of common fireworks and a leading wholesaler with pop-up tents across the state.
Most distasteful about this initiative — which the senator either fails to recognize or his arrogance chooses to ignore — is using his position as a legislator to sponsor a bill that could benefit him personally. Any doubt of that fact can be quieted with the reality that this legislation is limited to counties Gowan does not represent.
His justification for this measure is also weak. At a committee meeting Wednesday he argued that aerial fireworks are already being brought into Arizona and set off illegally during holiday celebrations. Legalizing these displays will generate additional sales tax for cities, he contends.
We assume it would also provide additional sales revenue for his employer as well.
Opponents of the bill, which includes the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, rightly argued that unlike ground-based fireworks, aerial displays disperse sparks across a wide area and create a fire hazard. There is also the concern for personal injury and the annoyance of loud explosions in quiet neighborhoods.
This isn’t the first time our Gowan has sought fireworks legislation. He sponsored legislation during the last session that successfully increased the number of days that fireworks can be sold in Arizona. When questioned by fellow legislators on a possible conflict of interest, he brushed those concerns aside and pointed to the sanctity of Arizona’s “citizen Legislature,” which expects lawmakers to hold jobs in addition to serving at the capital. He also argued that his side business didn’t generate much money.
Profitable or not and regardless of the necessity for another job, utilizing the legislative process to change state law for personal benefit — especially when the effort has nothing to do with the electors whom Gowan represents — is unethical.
His effort raises a legitimate question of whose interests Gowan is serving during his taxpayer-paid time at the capital, his own or that of his constituents?
This legislation is a clear illustration of Gowan’s priorities, and unfortunately for electors in Legislative District 14, they are not centered on serving the best interests of those he represents.