A bill that would let an arbitrator rather than elected officials decide how many firefighters towns must have on staff has officials in Evanston and other Illinois towns worried about the impact on taxpayers.

But while the bill passed the Illinois House on April 3, it has yet to be assigned to a Senate committee for review.

State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) says he’s not sure whether the bill will come up for a vote in the Senate before the legislature adjourns at the end of the month.

The bill, HB5485, is backed by fire unions which argue that the risks inherent in their job should give them some control over staffing levels.

But the Illinois Municipal League and Evanston officials are among those opposed to the bill.

Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber says staffing levels should be determined by management and an arbitrator’s decision to require more fire staffing could force the city to lay off workers in other departments to comply.

The bill has been amended to exempt Chicago from its provisions, and its chief sponsor in the Senate is Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat.

In the House, of the three lawmakers who represent parts of Evanston, the two who represent only suburban voters, Robyn Gabel and Laura Fine, voted against it, while Kelly Cassidy, whose district is mostly in Chicago, voted for it.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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