Every Fourth of July, you see them all over the place. They're large tents - usually white - with banners hawking fireworks.

At Easter and other times of the year, you see almost as many tents pushing flower sales.

There are even tents selling toys and gifts at Christmas.

Do municipalities regulate these sales outlets? Are state officials checking to see that the owners are collecting sales taxes and claiming profits - which includes paying occupational taxes?

Are permits needed for these sites?

What about safety inspections? Are there assurances with fireworks that individuals are protected in the event of an accident? Afterall, if you operate another type of store, there are many regulations of which you must comply.

Especially with fireworks, are state regulations being followed? The Keystone State has a strange rule in which out-of-state people can purchase any type of firework in Pennsylvania, but Pennsylvania residents can't.

We're not against tent sales. However, the rules governing them should be the same as those applying to any other merchant in the community.

Local flower shops and specialty stores need to comply with zoning laws, the tax code, safety regulations, and general ordinances. Do the tent owners?

Maybe local officials should start checking their zoning laws and other regulatory rules to make sure that tent owners aren't given an unfair advantage over the full-time store owners.

We're not talking about farm owners who put up a stand and offer local produce.

Every year it seems more and more tents appear at different times of the year. It also appears that some of these tents are up for most of the year.

It's only fair that local municipalities, strapped for funds to balance budgets, get their fair share of revenue and protect the existing businesses.

As just one example, if you open your own business in a regular building or residence, you must be assured zoning permits this type of business. You must have a specific number of parking spaces in many cases.

Do these tents have adequate parking? Quite frankly, we've seen traffic hazards at locations where the tents exist. It's time local governments looked out for their full-time businesses and put them on an even playing field with these seasonal visitors.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com