House Republicans push back against Pritzker’s reopening plan
House Republican leaders on Wednesday slammed a recently unveiled plan by Gov. JB Pritzker to reopen the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it does not respond quickly enough to the economic damage caused by the stay-at-home order.
House Republican Leader Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said during a video press conference that his party cannot “accept a plan that will destroy most of the businesses” in the state.
“This plan presumes that the governor shall rule the state for the upcoming months, and possibly much longer, if the vaccination is not available,” Durkin said.
The “Restore Illinois” plan, unveiled Tuesday by Pritzker, is a regional, five-phase plan detailing how the state may reopen during the new coronavirus pandemic. State officials will look at metrics such as hospital capacity and testing availability in four regions of the state to move each respective region through phases of reopening.
Pritzker said Tuesday the state is in phase two. The final phase, a full reopening of the economy, would occur when a vaccine or highly effective treatment is widely available, or if there has been an elimination of any new cases over a sustained period.
Republicans raised several concerns over the plan, from the damage to businesses if they are unable to open in the coming months, to the vagueness of some of the steps, such as what constitutes a “highly effective treatment” for the virus.
Pritzker said during his Wednesday press conference that he has continued to stay in contact with Republicans lawmakers and is including their input in the state’s COVID-19 response.
“I have talked to the leaders on the Republican side, many Republican legislators,” he said. “I’m frequently reaching out and listening to them. I take a lot of notes, and I’ve done a lot of the things that they’ve asked along the way.”
Durkin said the party is not considering any further legal action, citing pending litigation brought by colleague Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia. The Pritzker administration has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to fast track the litigation and to weigh in on the order.
“We don’t need further action because however the Supreme Court deals with it will be the law of the land,” Durkin said.
Republicans at the press conference said they were supportive of the initial stay-at-home order, and stressed that any reopening of the state would need to be done in a way that protects the health of all residents.
They also renewed calls for lawmakers to return to Springfield and help shape some of the response to the pandemic. Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said the state cannot simply continue to go on executive orders issued by Pritzker.
“We don’t defer all decision-making to the governor’s office,” Demmer said. “Instead, we have a collaborative and inclusive process through the democratically elected state representatives and senators to help resolve some of those challenging issues.”
Pritzker reiterated that it would be up to the General Assembly to decide when to return to session, and said the Illinois Department of Public Health would provide guidance on how lawmakers, their staff and others can safely work in the Capitol.
In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, did not offer any specifics when session may continue. He said any plan about a return to Springfield must ensure the health and safety of all members, staff and the general public.
“While I am eager to see a return to normalcy, we are talking about people’s lives, and any plan for a return to Springfield must have the health and safety of all those involved as a top priority, including the communities the members represent,” he said.
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