SPRINGFIELD — House Republicans said Wednesday that Illinois’ pandemic control plan needs GOP input and again urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to convene the Legislature.
The Democratic governor on Tuesday presented a five-phase plan to reopen shuttered businesses and ease the social distancing guidelines necessitated by the coronavirus crisis. Republican lawmakers said Pritzker’s plan moves too slowly to save many businesses or take the state back to how it had been.
Pritzker closed schools and implemented a stay-at-home order in mid-March to slow transmission of the coronavirus. Rep. Dan Brady said “Restore Illinois” illustrates that the state’s pandemic response “continues to be a decree by one person.”
“With this plan it could be months or even years before the state would fully reopen as we wait for a treatment or vaccine,” said Brady, a Bloomington Republican. “I have already heard from countless business owners that if the governor’s plan continues, they won’t be able to reopen whenever the time comes.”
The Legislature hasn’t met since early March and the spring session is scheduled to adjourn May 31. There has been little public discussion about convening to vote on a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Republicans said they should be allowed to convene under guidelines developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health for the General Assembly’s return to the Capitol: Don’t attend if you’re sick or over 65; travel alone by car; stay alone in hotel rooms; and submit to a temperature reading when entering the building.
The public and lobbyists would be excluded, most committee hearings would be by phone, and legislation would be debated on the floor witnessed by only necessary staff, the bill’s sponsor, and a lawmaker from each party caucus to ask questions. Votes would be recorded only by members pre-ordained by the caucus leader, limited to a necessary quorum, with 6 feet of space between each. Some members would have to take seats in the public galleries.
Illinois is in the second phase of “Restore Illinois,” with rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths leveling off. More social interaction is allowed at each stage, with the final one coming only after a vaccine or cure has been introduced. Republicans and others concerned about the economy noted that under the plan many businesses won’t reopen until the later stages.
The state is split into four regions for the purpose of the plan, and some could progress through the phases more quickly than others. Contrarily, a region experiencing a resurgence of the coronavirus can be bounced back a phase.
In the face of pressure from central and southern Illinois regions where there are lower coronavirus case numbers than in Chicago, Pritzker has emphasized that he’s guided by medical experts and scientific modeling.
Dixon Rep. Tom Demmer dismissed Pritzker’s suggestion that those pushing to re-open are blind to the data.
“Just because we have disagreements over how a specific plan is structured, doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the science that’s driving these decisions,” Demmer said. “The science can’t definitively tell us when it’s safe to move from one step to another step.
“There’s a lot of complexity that comes into establishing these multifaceted plans,” Demmer said. “And when we have that level of complexity, we need to have input from a wide variety of stakeholders.”