Does anybody else have a problem with a politician promoting a bill that would directly benefit his side business?
Arizona apparently does not.
Since at least 2019, and possibly before, Sen. David Gowan has been introducing legislation aimed at the laws governing fireworks in this state. His most recent effort, Senate Bill 1308, would amend existing statues to redefine “aerial devices,” and “specialty retailer,” under the law.
Sen. Gowan, who represents Legislative District 19, which includes most of Cochise County, has been a salesperson for TNT Fireworks, according to his 2023 financial disclosure statement filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
TNT Fireworks is one of the largest distributors of common fireworks and a leading wholesaler with pop-up tents across the state during sales windows.
The amendment proposed by our senator would allow speciality retailers of fireworks to sell devices throughout the year, not just before Fourth of July and New Years Eve. It would also remove the existing law definition of aerial fireworks provided by the American Pyrotechnics Association, and replace it with language that is oriented toward devices that fly above the ground and explode.
These changes may be needed. We don’t pretend to have extensive knowledge of the fireworks industry or its operation in Arizona.
What raises our collective eyebrows and seemingly borders on the appearance of impropriety is Sen. Gowan’s direct involvement in a profession he lobbies to support on our dime while at the Arizona Legislature.
Cochise County isn’t crying to amend the state fireworks code. Constituents aren’t showing up at local council meetings, before the county board, nor are they posting on social media about the injustices of Arizona’s fireworks laws.
This proposed amendment appears to benefit Sen. Gowan and the company he has worked for as a salesperson.
In 2021, the Senator introduced SB 1334, seeking to legalize some types of pyrotechnics that were prohibited, despite their widespread use. In 2019, Sen. Gowan proposed SB 1348, adding to the number of days that fireworks could be sold in the state.
Technically, none of these bills fit the state’s fickle definition as a conflict of interest. State law, which of course is written and adopted by our legislators, says public officials have no real conflict of interest if a bill they are voting on would affect at least 10 other people.
Certainly selling more fireworks would meet that criteria.
Put another way, as long as at least 10 other people can benefit from the expanded sales of fireworks in Arizona, it’s A-OK for Sen. Gowan to push this on behalf of his employer.
But is it in the best interests of his constituents, or is it really a benefit for Sen. Gowan and TNT Fireworks?
The answer to that question appears to be quite obvious.