Wisniewski disappointed in CV of fire district command structure bill

TRENTON – The sponsor of a conditionally vetoed fire district command structure bill said Tuesday he was disappointed in the decision.

Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill on Monday that would have put in place a command structure in local mutual aid plans that would include battalion chiefs and deputy chiefs.

To determine whether such a command structure is necessary, Christie recommended a study be done by the Fire Safety Division of the Department of Community Affairs where the various laws and rules concerning such plans are reviewed.

But the prime sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, said he is disappointed by the conditional veto, saying that it “nullifies the entire bill.”

“It’s obviously disappointing,” Wisniewski said in a phone interview.

He described the recommendation of having the Fire Safety Division review all rules as “redundant,” since the division  participates in every Fire Safety Commission hearing and was part of the fire service groups that recommended such legislation be drafted.

Wisniewski, who’s become a frequent critic of the governor since he became head of the Democratic State Committee, didn’t rule out “politics” as a possible reason for the conditional veto.

“I’m sure it’s not entirely unrelated,” he said.

Nonetheless, Wisniewski said he will discuss the legislation, and the governor’s recommendation, with fire service members at the next Fire Safety Commission hearing, which Wisniewski heads.

The next meeting is in May.

In his veto message, Christie said that while he supports the lawmakers’ intent behind the bill, A2593, to make sure a clear plan is in place for departments and fire districts to follow, he was concerned the bill may tie the departments’ hands.

“Nonetheless, I am concerned that this bill may not afford municipalities and fire districts sufficient flexibility to establish plans best suited to their individual needs,” he said in his veto message.

“Moreover, I am concerned that by explicitly delineating the chain of command in State statute, current municipal arrangements concerning incident command support could be unnecessarily disrupted.”

In recommending a study be done, Christie said, “The Director shall develop findings and recommendations on whether revisions to existing procedures concerning local fire mutual aid plans are necessary, including whether a statutorily delineated chain of command is appropriate and necessary.”

Wisniewski disappointed in CV of fire district command structure bill