socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
The state legislature approved a bill that requires fire chiefs to have specific qualifications over a veto from the governor and objections from municipal management groups.
State Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, said Senate Bill 2619 establishes requirements for the fire chief post that local governments must follow.
“We’re not mandating any increase in pay," Willis said. "We’re just making sure that the men and women that run these departments are trained personnel … They could have firefighter officer training, they could have a certification from the International Fire Association or they could have ten years experience as a firefighter.”
State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainview, said the law could unintentionally divert local resources from critical services. He said there are a lot of wish list items out there, but not enough resources.
“I’d like to see some more police public safety dollars spent in schools protecting our children,” Batinick said. “You have to make decisions on these things, folks. You can’t take everything in a vacuum that might seem like a great idea. But it comes down to decisions, and those decisions have to be made locally.”
The Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, the Associated Firefighters of Illinois and the Illinois Association of Firefighters supported the measure.
State Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said municipal management groups, such as the Illinois Municipal League, opposed the bill because it removed local control.
“It increases the difficulty in cost and fulfilling these important positions including pre-empting the home rule authority of these municipalities,” Breen said.
Other than the IML, the measure was opposed by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, Northwest Municipal Conference, Barrington Area Council of Governments and other municipalities with home rule status.
Other opponents asked why such a measure is even needed. Willis couldn’t point to any examples.
“But I can tell you as we continue down the path of privatization of fire departments, it’s just a tragedy waiting to happen – having administrators or bookkeepers in charge of fire departments instead of trained fire personnel,” Willis said.
Batinick said, “that’s an exaggeration of what this bill does.”
“I have a village in my district that has a public safety director that is a police chief that came through the police ranks that’s running both,” Batinick said.
The measure is now law.