“We are not opposed to local government re-organization, consolidation or modernization,” Driscoll said. “We simply believe it needs to be a local decision.”
By “local,” Driscoll said she meant township officials should be able to decide whether to merge with other local units of government, and to take steps to improve how they account for the funds and deliver their services.
State Rep. Scott Reske, a Democrat from Pendleton and committee member, said he was concerned that forcing township volunteer fire departments to merge into a county-wide system would undermine the bill's intent to save dollars.
“You'll lose half your volunteers,” Reske said. “You'll hit an immediate fiscal crisis as soon as this happens.”
In arguing for the bill, Foley said he had files full of newspaper clippings reporting “dysfunctional fights” among township fire departments over money, equipment, and other issues.
“Am I the only (state) representative who is sick of fire department fights?” Foley said.
That comment brought a response later in the hearing from Larry Curl, head of the Indiana Volunteer Firefighter Association. Noting the contentious and continuing dispute over the “right to work” legislation that would criminalize mandatory union dues, Curl said: “We're not the only ones who fight. Look at state government.”
No vote was taken on Foley's bill. It's scheduled for vote for Friday. If it passes, it would go to the full House for a vote.