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Fire district board members could see pay hike under plan advancing at Statehouse

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, left, speaks Tuesday to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety about legislation increasing the maximum per meeting pay for fire protection district board members to $100 from $20. Senate Bill 156 was approved 13-0 and now goes to the full House.

INDIANAPOLIS — Several Northwest Indiana lawmakers are hoping Region residents will be enticed to serve on the boards overseeing fire protection districts if the per meeting board member pay is increased to $100 from $20.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, said officials in the town of Griffith told them that they've had trouble finding people willing to sit on the local fire district board due to the low per diem.

In response, Soliday and Randolph are sponsoring Senate Bill 156 authorizing fire protection districts to pay up to $100 per board member for each of the four mandatory board meetings held each year, and on any other days that board members engage in fire district work.

"They feel it will help them with their recruitment," Soliday said.

He explained the legislation does not mandate fire protection districts pay the higher rate — or even pay anything — to their board members. It simply provides the option of paying a maximum of $100 per meeting, instead of the current $20 limit, Soliday said.

Supporters of the plan include the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana and the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association.

"While most fire district trustees aren't in it for the money, it is a nice incentive to have that possibility of raising that per diem," said Tim Smith, president of the fire chiefs' organization.

On Tuesday, the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee voted 13-0 to advance the proposal to the full House.

It previously was endorsed 49-0 by the Senate.

If also approved by the House, without changes, the proposal will go directly to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to be signed into law.

Other Region sponsors of the measure are state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell; state Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores; and state Rep. Carolyn Jackson, D-Hammond.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.