Lawmaker Pushes To Suspend Rule Change For Illinois Businesses That Violate Governor’s Order

ILLINOIS — While the Illinois Legislature isn’t expected to debate the governor’s authority to extend emergency stay-at-home orders beyond 30 days, a bipartisan commission on administrative rules could evaluate a new rule that would make violations of the executive orders a Class A Misdemeanor.

The Illinois Department of Public Health filed emergency rules that require local law enforcement to enforce the governor’s orders against businesses that violate the orders. The rule says restaurants can’t have dine-in service, salons and gyms must remain closed and certain retailers the governor has deemed nonessential are only allowed to offer curbside or delivery sales.

On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the rule “was simply a change of rules” and would be another tool for law enforcement agencies. Other tools he listed include the ability to issue closure orders and revoke state licenses. The new rule won’t be used to enforce individual contact such as wearing a face covering, he said.

State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, is on the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules. He said when the commission meets in Springfield on Wednesday, he will file a motion to suspend the rules.

“That takes eight members, so it would have to be bipartisan with respect to getting a suspension,” Wheeler told WMAY on Monday.

The commission is comprised of six Democrats, three from each the House and Senate, and six Republicans, three from each the House and Senate.

The rules are in place right now, Wheeler said. If the rules are not suspended on Wednesday, they will be in place through the second week of October. He called the rules an abuse of the rule-making process.

“If they’re intent on doing this, they can do this by statute,” Wheeler said. “The push back they give on that is it’s easier to withdraw an emergency rule and that is true but we sunset things in Springfield all the time, so I’m sure that the creative minds in Springfield could find a way if everyone agreed this was good policy, which I don’t.”

Lawmakers are set to return to Springfield on Wednesday for a special session.

Pritzker equated the new enforcement mechanisms to a citation and said the emergency rule would only be enforced on businesses.

Wheeler said a small business could be an individual.

“The reality of it is … a small business could be a single mom doing nails in the basement of her house, she is the business,” Wheeler said, acknowledging the person could be arrested, fingerprinted, and face a judge.

“That’s out of the hands of the governor at that point,” he said.

A Class A Misdemeanor could be punished by up to $2,500 fine or up to a year in jail.

“The COVID-19 outbreak in Illinois is a significant public health crisis that warrants this emergency rule,” IDPH Director Dr. Ezike said in filing the emergency rule late Friday.

“The Department has jurisdiction to address dangerously contagious or infectious disease outbreaks to protect the health and lives of the people of the State, and is using that authority to establish restrictions on functions of businesses that risk transmission of COVID-19,” additional rule filing documents said. “These restrictions will be reviewed by the Department in coordination with the different stages of the Restore Illinois plan and the latest public health guidance and metrics.”

The governor issued a five-phase plan to open sectors of the economy earlier this month. The state is currently in Phase 2. Phase 3 could kick in later this month for the four regions in the governor’s plan which could mean salons could partially open.

Springfield’s Bow and Arrow Salon closed shop amid the initial coronavirus concerns before the governor’s closure orders in March. Owner Riley Craig Shaffer said she was patient and eyed a May 1 reopening, but the governor extended his orders through May 30. She said she had not had any communication directly from the state or local health officials and she opened back up.

“I think that if I’m staying safe and doing my part and keeping everyone that walks into my salon safe we should be able to open our doors,” she said. “I will be safe. I’m not going to live my life in fear because I can get into my car right now and get into an accident and die.”

She said the rules filed late Friday that could lead to criminal charges for opening beyond the governor’s orders were ridiculous.

“If I get my license pulled, or my business license pulled, or they tell me I can’t have a business anymore I will take my stuff and I will take my business to a community in a different state where it’s more business-friendly,” she said.

Republican leadership in the legislature said that if the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules doesn’t suspend the rule, there should be a lawsuit to have it withdrawn.

Last month the governor initiated a rule change from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that allowed workers to get workers’ compensation benefits if they were diagnosed with COVID-19 without having to prove they contracted the illness on the job. The rule was challenged in court. A judge issued a temporary restraining order. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission then withdrew the rule.

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

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