(50 ILCS 741/25)
Creation of an Agency by petition and referendum.
(a) Petition. A Regional Fire Protection Agency may exclusively be formed upon petition signed by the lesser of: (i) at least 8% of the total votes cast for candidates for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election in each of the units of local government included in the Regional Fire Protection Agency; or (ii) at least 500 legal voters in each of the units of local government to be included in the Regional Fire Protection Agency. The petition shall be filed in the circuit court of the county in which the greater part of the land of the proposed Regional Fire Protection Agency shall be situated. The petition shall set forth the names of the units of local government proposed to be included, the name of the proposed Regional Fire Protection Agency, the benefits of consolidating the units of local government within a Regional Fire Protection Agency, the names of the representatives of the petitioners from each unit of local government who shall be authorized to serve on the Joint Committee, and up to 3 alternate representatives from each unit of local government in the event a designated representative ceases to be an elector of their jurisdiction or resigns from the Joint Committee. Upon its filing, the petition shall be presented to the court, and the court shall fix the date and hour for a hearing.
(b) Notice of hearing. Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall set a hearing date that is at least 4 weeks, but not more than 8 weeks, after the date the petition is filed. The court, clerk, petitioner's counsel, or sheriff shall, upon order of the court, give notice 21 days before the hearing in one or more daily or weekly newspapers of general circulation in each county where an affected unit of local government is organized. The notice must describe the units of local government to be included and shall state that if the conditions required by this Section are met, then the proposition for the creation of the Agency shall be submitted to the voters of the units of local government in the proposed Agency by order of the court.
(c) Hearing and referendum. At the hearing, the court shall first determine whether the petition is supported by the required number of valid signatures of legal voters within the contiguous units of local government. If the petition is proper, then the court shall remand the matter to a Special Mediator who shall mediate the negotiations regarding the terms of an intergovernmental agreement by the members of the Joint Committee as provided in subsection (d) of this Section. The Special Mediator shall be a member of the bar of the State of Illinois or a member of the faculty of an accredited law school. The Special Mediator shall have practiced law for at least 7 years and be knowledgeable about municipal, labor, employment, and election law. The Special Mediator shall be free of any conflicts of interest. The Special Mediator shall have strong mediation skills and the temperament and training to listen well, facilitate communication, and assist with negotiations. Special Mediators shall have sufficient experience and familiarity with municipal, labor, employment, and election law to provide a credible evaluation and assessment of relative positions. The Special Mediator assigned to mediate the Joint Committee's negotiations shall be selected by the members of the Joint Committee from a panel of 7 individuals provided by the Joint Labor Management Committee, as it is defined in Section 50 of the Fire Department Promotion Act. The panel shall be randomly selected by the Joint Labor Management Committee from a master list maintained by the Joint Labor Management Committee consisting of at least 14 qualified Special Mediators. If the members fail to agree, the court shall appoint the Special Mediator. The Joint Committee may elect to conduct negotiations without the assistance of the Special Mediator upon a majority vote of the Joint Committee. To certify a question for referendum, the court must find that: (i) based upon a preponderance of the evidence, at least 2 of the 3 Joint Committee representatives appointed by the court for each unit of local government included in the proposed Agency have executed an intergovernmental agreement that includes terms that are in compliance with the requirements under subsection (d) of this Section; (ii) the terms of an agreed-upon intergovernmental agreement have been approved by the requisite governing bodies of each of the units of local government; and (iii) should the terms of an agreed-upon intergovernmental agreement change the terms of the collective bargaining agreement for a bargaining unit of employees of any local unit of government of the proposed Regional Fire Protection Agency, any affected collective bargaining units must also approve all such changes in the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
(d) Joint Committee. The court shall allow appointments to the Joint Committee as follows:
(1) A representative of each unit of local government
(e) Joint Committee negotiations. After remand, the Special Mediator shall schedule a meeting of the Joint Committee and facilitate the members in negotiating the terms of an intergovernmental agreement. The first order of business shall be to establish a financial baseline for the current costs of fire and emergency medical services provided by the units of local government party to the Joint Committee. To this end, each unit of local government party to the Joint Committee shall disclose to the Joint Committee the total aggregate expenditures it allocates for providing all fire, rescue, and emergency medical services. These expenditures shall include, but are not limited to, the following cost factors: (i) all expenses from the corporate fund and other operational funds related to fire protection services, whether direct or indirect, for the current fiscal year; and (ii) all costs, whether direct or indirect, paid from other funds, including, but not limited to, capital or building funds, pension funds, workers' compensation funds, health insurance funds, enterprise funds, administrative funds, and all other funds from which money is, or may be, paid or transferred to pay for the administration and compensation or benefits for employees or persons assigned to provide fire or emergency medical services or related services, equipment, and buildings and their maintenance or operation and debt service for any expenditures related to these or related cost factors.
The Special Mediator or the court, or both if necessary, shall facilitate the computation and production of this financial baseline unless the Joint Committee elects to conduct negotiations without the assistance of the Special Mediator. The financial baseline shall serve as the predicate to: (i) the annual contributions to be made by each unit of local government to the costs of providing fire and emergency medical services to the service area established for the proposed Regional Fire Protection Agency; and (ii) for the court's findings pursuant to subsection (f) of this Section.
The Joint Committee may take note or give due consideration to available resources, studies, and plans that may facilitate the resolution of issues relating to the terms of an agreement. Negotiations may continue for a period of 90 days or, if the court determines that additional time will facilitate agreement, longer.
If no agreement is reached, the court shall dismiss the petition. If an agreement is reached, the court shall schedule an evidentiary hearing with notice to determine if the terms of the agreement are in compliance with the requirements of subsection (f) of this Section. The expenses of the Special Mediator shall be apportioned equally among the included units of local government unless the parties agree otherwise in the intergovernmental agreement.
If the intergovernmental agreement has been approved by the governing bodies of at least 2 units of local government included in the original petition, then the petition may proceed, provided that the agreement is also executed by at least 2 of 3 Joint Committee representatives from each affected unit of local government included in the original petition. The units of local government that did not consent to inclusion shall be dismissed, and an amended petition on behalf of the consenting units of local government shall be scheduled for an evidentiary hearing.
The persons or entities, or their duly authorized representatives, that shall have standing to present evidence at the hearing are the petitioners, the units of local government that sought to be included in the proposed Agency, and the representatives of each collective bargaining unit that is a party to a collective bargaining agreement with a fire protection jurisdiction within a unit of local government included within the proposed Agency.
If the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the petition is supported by a proper intergovernmental agreement, the court shall enter an order certifying the proposition to the proper election officials, who shall submit the question of the creation of the proposed Agency to the legal voters of each included unit of local government at the next election. Notice of the election shall be given and the election conducted in the manner provided by the general election law. The notice shall state the boundaries of the proposed Agency.
The question shall be submitted in substantially the following form:
Shall the service areas of (names of existing units