WIUM Tristates Public Radio

New Laws to Help Firefighters & Emergency Responders

Western Illinois – Illinois' governor signed into law several fire safety bills sponsored by a state representative from Knox County.

Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) chairs the Fire Protection Committee. In that role, he works with firefighters, chiefs, and fire district trustees from across the state on potential legislation.

Four of the bills they came up with were approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat Quinn.

House Bill 5139 bans the sale and distribution of novelty and toy lighters in Illinois. The Illinois Fire Inspector's Association says more than 300 people are hurt or killed in the US every year from the misuse of these lighters.

"Some of them look like cellphones or calculators or tractors or trucks. It might be an airplane or a race car. Things that are very attractive to a small child," Moffitt said.

He also said the novelty lighters require just a single click to light - rather than a double click, which he says is the industry standard - and don't extinguish as quickly as regular lighters.

The new law takes effect immediately. The sale of these lighters is now punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Another of the new laws is House Bill 5285. It increases the fee that can be assessed to people convicted of a serious driving offense.

The fee was $20. The Fire Truck Revolving Loan Fund and the Illinois Fire Prevention Fund each received $7.50 with the other $5.00 going to the local circuit clerk's office.

The fee will be increased to $35 when the law goes into effect 60 days after it was signed (which was on July 22). The two fire-related funds will now receive $15.00 each while the circuit clerk will continue to get $5.00.

"If a person is convicted of a serious traffic offense, including DUI, then they should have to help pay for the response that was required to deal with the emergency created by that violation," Moffitt said.

He also said both of the funds are in need of additional money.

House Bill 5412 ensures 2.5% of the Fire Prevention Fund will be set aside for the Cornerstone Regional Training Program, which Moffitt said helps pay for training firefighters from across the state. He said no money had been dedicated to the program, plus the Fire Prevention Fund got swept last year. He said the new law will protect funding for the training program.

House Bill 4779 concerns people convicted of reckless driving or exceeding the speed limit by at least 40 mph. A judge can order those drivers to pay up to $1,000 to each emergency response agency that helps deal with the incident caused by the reckless driving or excessive speeding.

"We're not talking minor traffic violations. We're talking reckless driving." Moffitt said. "We're not talking about going (a few) miles over the speed limit. We're talking excessive. Those are intentional decisions ... Why should the taxpayers have to pay for all that service when it was an intentional decision?"

Both HB 5412 and HB 4779 go into effect immediately.