• Measure making disolving fire departments more difficult passes House

    by  • April 9, 2014 • News

    A bill sponsored by state Rep. Jay Hoffman that would make it harder for cities to close their fire departments won approval Tuesday in the Illinois House. 13808483-fire-department-or-firefighter-s-maltese-cross-symbol-on-a-button-illustration

    The measure, approved by a vote of 93-20, would require cities and villages to hold a referendum if they want to close a fire department. The bill now goes to the Senate.

    Hoffman says if a fire district is going to be dissolved in a municipality or a village, the voters will have a say.

    The bill was opposed by the Illinois Municipal League and some other city groups. They generally oppose bills that take city labor decisions out of the hands of city leaders.

    Hoffman, D-Swansea, said the bill is an initiative of the Association of Fire Fighters of Illinois, a labor group for firefighters.

    According to Hoffman, the bill simply says that if a municipality wants to dissolve a fire department, the voters get to decide. He added that if they want to work together with another municipality, they can do that by an intergovernmental agreement – that the measure doesn’t prohibit that.

    Hoffman said fire districts, as opposed to municipal fire departments, already are required to hold a referendum in order to shut down.

    Pat Devaney, president of the firefighter association, said Tuesday the legislation is not about making it harder to lay off firefighters, it’s about letting voters have a say in their emergency services.

    Hoffman has said he’s not aware of any metro-east municipalities wanting to close their fire departments. Devaney said the only example he could recall was from a few years ago, when Centralia considered closing its fire department.

    The bill is HB4418.

    Area representatives John Cavaletto of Salem and Charlie  Meier of Okawville, both republicans, voted in favor of Hoffman’s bill.

    Last week the House passed another bill that would impact local officials’ operation of fire departments.

    House Bill 5485 would make minimum staffing requirements for fire departments one of the factors that an arbitrator could decide during labor negotiations between firefighters unions and city leaders.