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Kansas company sues over fireworks fees

Last Modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 9:48 AM

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A Kansas company that sells fireworks in Louisiana is asking a state judge to strike down a law that imposes higher permit fees and penalties on nonresident fireworks retailers than on local sellers.

A hearing is scheduled June 20 before state District Judge Wilson Fields.

The Advocate reported that C&A Pyro LLC, based in Prairie Village, Kansas, argues the higher fees are unconstitutional, discriminatory and unjustified.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning, who is named as a defendant in the suit along with his office, said Friday he could not comment on the pending litigation

Louisiana previously charged a $100 permit fee for all fireworks retailers who submitted a permit application on or before April 1 of the year for which the permit was sought. If the application and fee were submitted after April 1, a late fee equal to the permit amount would be charged.

The law was amended May 4, 2012, to set a permit fee of $100 for resident retailers and $800 for nonresident retailers. Retailers who submit applications and fees after April 1 still are charged a penalty equal to the permit fee, meaning the late fee is $100 for resident retailers and $800 for nonresident retailers.

The law defines resident as "any person who has been domiciled in Louisiana for a period of at least 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for the permit and who has not claimed residence in any other state for any other purpose."

C&A Pyro submitted applications to the fire marshal March 28 for 11 retail fireworks permits — one for each of the retail locations it operates in Louisiana — for 2013.

The company also submitted a $1,100 check. The fire marshal told the firm that it owed $800 for each permit, or a total of $8,800.

"Resident retailers benefit from the protections offered by the Fireworks Law through the presence of fewer competitors, the expenditure of fewer funds, and the enjoyment of greater profits," C&A Pyro said in the lawsuit, which filed Tuesday.

It is illegal to sell fireworks in Louisiana without a permit.

The state's fireworks law allows retailers to sell fireworks in Louisiana during only two periods each year: from noon June 25 to midnight July 5, and from noon Dec. 15 to midnight Jan. 1. The state fire marshal is prohibited from issuing retail fireworks permits during those periods, the suit says.

"If C&A does not receive the 11 permits to which it is entitled in advance of the upcoming period of prohibition, C&A will be precluded from selling fireworks at retail ... and will suffer substantial losses of revenue and other damages," the lawsuit argued.

C&A Pyro operates one warehouse, two permanent retail spaces and nine temporary tent retail spaces in Louisiana, the suit says. All of the company's full-time employees live and work in Louisiana. The firm files tax returns in Louisiana, and pays personal, sales and property taxes in the state, the suit says.

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