Industry makes united stand in Illinois

 - 
03/17/2011

Recent steps in Illinois to combat a legislative proposal to give public fire districts a monopoly over fire alarm monitoring are a good example of what the industry can do when it unites around an issue.

Opponents of the legislation, led by the Illinois Electronic Security Association, over the past week said they dissuaded one legislator to drop her co-sponsorship of the bill and also held a rally yesterday in the state capital that drew close to 100 participants, who then lobbied legislators personally against the bill.

“Today was a very good step forward for the industry,” Kevin Lehan, executive director of IESA, told me yesterday after IESA’s Legislative Day rally and lobbying effort in Springfield.

IESA wasted no time mobilizing after HB 1301, entitled the “Fire District Antitrust Exemption,” was formally introduced in the General Assembly on Feb. 8.

Lehan has described the bill as “an overstepping of government. This is a cash grab and nothing more.” It would allow public fire districts to mandate that all customers in the district use the district’s monitoring business, and the customers would pay their monitoring fees to the district.

Actions IESA took included urging members to call their legislators, and it also lined up other business groups, such as the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, to come out in opposition to the measure.

That helped when the IESA learned last week that the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Donald Moffitt, had just gained a Democratic chief co-sponsor, Rep. Lisa Dugan.

“We were feeling pretty good about ourselves,” Lehan told me about IESA’s initial efforts to get the bill killed.

But then, he told me, “Last week on the 10th of March, another representative, Lisa Dugan, put her name on as a co-sponsor so we found out very shortly after … and Rep. Dugan is a IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] member and she also is also a [former] Chamber of Commerce president in her area … The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is opposed to 1301 and she had a lot of IBEW members contact her as well.”

As a consequence, Lehan told me, on this past Monday, March 14, “the earliest possible time that she could distance herself, she removed her name as a sponsor.”

I couldn’t reach Dugan for comment this morning, but a spokeswoman for her said the legislator’s name appearing on the bill was a clerical error because Dugan had not intended to support it.

So, is the legislation dead? “We do believe it will just languish in the form of 1301, and die in committee,” Lehan told me.

However, he cautioned, this legislative session doesn’t end until May 31 and there are other bills dealing with fire protection districts to which some legislator might attach the same language as found in HB 1301.

“Until they hit the gavel and close this session anything can happen in Springfield,” Lehan said. “So we’ll remain every vigilant to a handful of bills that do impact the fire protection district.”