I am pleased to report that the Illinois House of Representatives State Government Administration Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that will limit the ability of the State Fire Marshal to implement fire sprinkler mandates without the approval of the Illinois General Assembly. The bill now advances to the Illinois House of Representatives for a vote.
I joined my City Council colleagues yesterday in sounding the call to our constituents to contact the members of the Committee and urge them to support the measure.
The bill sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and supported by our local legislators, State Senator Heather Steans and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, requires full General Assembly review and approval of any regulation mandating the installation of fire sprinklers in any building.
Currently, the State Fire Marshal need only receive the approval of a small committee of legislators called the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). The legislation approved by the Committee yesterday will ensure that any proposed changes to state fire sprinkler laws are made with more transparency, adequate public input, and open discussion in the General Assembly.
The bill also creates a “Task Force on Fire Prevention and Fire Safety Education,” comprised of 21 members representing firefighters, homeowners’ associations, building trades, and community members.
This task force would consist of experts with decades of experience in fire safety law and best practices who would research and consider the effects of any legislation requiring fire sprinklers in homes, businesses, and high-rise buildings. This group would examine all questions related to increasing rent prices, insurance rates, and installation costs and provide a comprehensive, unbiased report with recommendations to the General Assembly.
Though the State Fire Marshal has not attempted to implement any fire sprinkler regulations since last summer, he made clear in his remarks before the Committee yesterday that a sprinkler mandate is his ultimate goal.
Further public input on this issue will be critical to ensuring this bill’s passage. I will keep you apprised of next steps.
Many thanks should go to State Reps. Feigenholtz and Cassidy and State Senator Steans, who have stayed on top of this issue in Springfield. I also thank my colleague Alderman Michele Smith, who played a critical role in galvanizing support for the measure among the lakefront aldermen.