With the holiday season quickly approaching, the issue of fireworks always comes up with a bang. As you probably know, purchasing or carrying fireworks in the City of Houston is banned, but fireworks are legal in the unincorporated areas of Harris County… that is unless you are in the LPA of the ETJs…
Limited Purpose Annexation (LPA) areas began in 1999 when the state legislature agreed to allow the City to basically “annex” areas surrounding the City (these areas surrounding the City are called Extraterritorial Jurisdictions – or ETJs). The City wanted to basically have some control over these areas without having to go through the process of annexing the area. Those who live in these areas do not get to vote in City elections because they technically do not live in the City.
Houston has been extending their ban on fireworks to these areas in the interest of fire safety. City officials have in the past waited outside legal fireworks venders in areas where it is legal to purchase and possess fireworks and proceeded to give people tickets as soon as they drove into either the City or the LPA. There are no signs to alert you. It is hard enough to know exactly where the boundaries of the City are in some areas. How are people expected to know where the LPAs are??
This is supposed to be in the interest of fire safety, but ironically, Houston doesn’t actually provide fire services to these regions. The Houston Fire Department doesn’t even have jurisdiction in these areas! According to the Texas Fireworks Association (who got the statistic from “2007 Fires in Texas: Annual Fire Statistics”), 99.99% of all fires in Harris County are caused by something other than fireworks.
It is a fact that the City of Houston needs to come up with some extra money quickly to balance the budget. In the LPA, there is an extra 1% sales tax charged, and the City collects ½ of this extra 1% tax, and the Municipal Utility District (MUD) gets the other half. Currently, the City of Houston collects about $58 million per year from sales taxes in the LPAs. $58 MILLION! Why is the City really obstructing people from purchasing fireworks in this area? Harris County fireworks vendors contributed more than $2.4 million in sales taxes last year, so surely they can’t get more off of tickets than they would get from sales taxes if they allowed the fireworks. Maybe the City should consider selling fireworks themselves to balance our budget.
For more info: http://texasfireworks.org/?page_id=69#_ftnref5