Illinois bill enables townships to levy fire fines

Bill breezes through House and Senate; now awaits governor’s signature
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Tuesday, July 1, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A bill granting Illinois townships the same rights as other municipalities regarding the imposition of fines for false fire alarms was awaiting the signature of Gov. Rod Blagojevich here at press time.

House Bill 116 amends the Fire Protection District Act to allow township boards “of any town providing fire protection service (to) impose reasonable civil penalties on individuals who repeatedly cause false fire alarms.”

Introduced in the Illinois House by Rep. Michael K. Smith, D-Canton, and in the Senate by Sen. George Shadid, D-Pekin, the bill passed both bodies unanimously on March 18 and May 7, respectively.

Tony Calderone, president of the Illinois Electronic Security Association, Arlington Heights, Ill., said townships - which govern the unincorporated areas not covered by cities, towns and villages - don’t have home rule power. “They only have power through the state legislature,” which is why the amendment was necessary.

The legislation, when signed, would give townships that provide fire protection services the right to impose fines, he said. Calderone added that not all townships provide such services, although some do contract to provide fire protection.

Calderone noted the legislation, which generated little debate and no opposition votes, is in line with how cities, towns and villages approach the false alarm issue. “We’re not seeing any stark contrast with other municipalities,” he said.

In fact, he said, because the wording of the bill states townships boards “may” impose civil penalties, it’s unclear whether any will actually do so. However, he added, there must be some interest along these lines because “obviously somebody lobbied for it.”