SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois legislator on Wednesday filed a second legal challenge to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s efforts to discourage transmission of the coronavirus, saying he’s seeking a compromise on the statewide stay-at-home order.
The lawsuit filed by Rep. John Cabello, a Republican from Machesney Park, claims the governor’s emergency powers are limited to 30 days and that he therefore had no right to extend his March 21 order through the end of May.
The new challenge follows a ruling Monday in Clay County, in a lawsuit brought by Republican Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, that Pritzker’s statewide restrictions amount to constitutional overreach. The Democratic governor derided the action as a “political stunt” by a headline-seeking grandstander.
“This isn’t political. This isn’t a stunt,” said Cabello, a police detective. “This is talking about people’s lives. There are many people staring bankruptcy in the face, many people facing how to put food on the table for their children. He is an out-of-touch multibillionaire. He doesn’t understand what it’s like.”
Cabello’s lawsuit shows a “callous disregard for science, reason and the value of human life,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.
“The governor is focused on the statewide response to COVID-19, an effort that is not just legal, but is keeping people safe and saving lives,” Abudayyeh said.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 2,125 Illinois lives and sickened more than 48,000, prompted Pritzker to issue a statewide disaster declaration on March 9, followed by closed schools, shuttered businesses deemed non-essential and, starting March 21, a statewide order to stay home unless absolutely necessary. The governor last week extended that order through May.
With many stores and offices closed, collateral damage includes more than 750,000 first-time unemployment claims since March 1.
Government lawyers argued in the Bailey case that the state Constitution provides the executive with police powers to deal with crises such as pandemics and that the Illinois General Assembly, which hasn’t met since early March because of social-distancing guidelines, hasn’t objected.
The state attorney general has indicated he’ll appeal the Clay County ruling, which granted Bailey alone a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of Pritzker’s orders. Cabello stressed he is not seeking a restraining order, which could speed up court action. He said he would prefer a delay to give him time to negotiate a compromise with Pritzker’s office on the extended decree that takes effect on Friday.
In other words, Cabello isn’t crusading for an immediate return to pre-pandemic conditions.
“I get it. I understand. But there are commonsense solutions that allow us to move forward together,” Cabello said.
“When you don’t listen, you don’t ask, and the General Assembly doesn’t convene, there are issues,” he said.
Cabello said he contacted one of Pritzker’s deputies about the lawsuit and a possible compromise. He said he was greeted respectfully but told the pending litigation would likely preclude discussion.