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State Legislation Presents New Threat to Alarm Industry in Illinois

Posted By Bob Ogle, Thursday, February 20, 2014

A federal court decision in 2013 was believed to be a major step in compelling Illinois fire districts to open up to commercial competition, but a new bill in the Illinois state legislature is being viewed as an attempt at an end-run around the legal issues. Industry professionals are now being asked to help stop the bill in its tracks.

House Bill 5683 would amend the state’s Fire Protection District Act to allow the adoption of ordinances regulating the supervision and monitoring of fire alarm systems maintained within a district. The bill’s language would also allow districts to "collect reasonable fees for fire alarm services that are provided to customers by the district itself or through a vendor approved by the board.”

Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA) Executive Director Kevin Lehan said the bill also amends the Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor and Locksmith Act and exempts units of local government and its employees from the requirements of the security industry licensure act.

Lehan is very clear about how security professionals should view the new legislation, which was introduced by state Rep. Timothy L. Schmitz (R-Geneva).

"The intent of the bill appears to be a way to circumvent the Lisle-Woodridge federal court ruling,” Lehan said. He said IESA is also concerned that if the bill is successful, the tactic might spread to other states.

In July 2013, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling against the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, which had required that commercial and multi-residential businesses must contract solely with the district for fire alarm monitoring. In effect, that would have opened the door for more fire districts to enter the fire alarm monitoring business and charge customers higher-than-market-priced fees for monitoring.

However, the appellate court confirmed that the ordinance created a governmental monopoly, and upheld a permanent injunction that was handed down in August 2012. Since then, a number of fire districts have been getting out of the fire alarm monitoring business.

Lehan is asking for assistance from other industry members in the state.

"Soon, we will be providing information that we hope the industry will hand-deliver to their state lawmakers for both the homes and business locations,” he said. "It is extremely important the industry is united and actively educates legislators about the detrimental impact of this bill.”

Lehan said IESA will continue to keep members and other professionals informed about the legislation as well as discussing strategy. In the meantime, he said, industry professionals can identify their state lawmakers and be ready to contact them with the appropriate information once it is available.

Above all, he said, an increase in the number of IESA members would create greater resistance against the bill.

"For the industry to be successful in opposing this bill, we need more members and greater support,” he said. "Any professional who has not already joined for 2014 should do so as soon as possible. It’s an investment that every alarm contractor in the state should make in our industry.”

More information can be obtained by contacting Lehan via e-mail at ExecDirector@IESA.net.

Tags:  government relations  IESA 

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