Republicans, demonstrators take aim at Pritzker’s reopening plan as legislators set to reconvene in Springfield

Republicans, demonstrators take aim at Pritzker’s reopening plan as legislators set to reconvene in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD — As lawmakers return to Springfield on Wednesday, Republicans continued their offensive against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plans and an emergency rule that allows businesses violating his stay-at-home order to be charged with a misdemeanor.

Outside the Bank of Springfield Center, where the state House is set to meet, protesters chanted “Open Illinois,” waving Trump 2020 flags and holding signs that read “Pritzker the real virus,” “Don’t let the mask become a muzzle” and “J.B get your foot off my throat.”

They cheered and chanted “Thank you” when Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia walked through the crowd to enter the convention center through the public access point. Bailey has said he would not wear a mask for session, and he entered the building not wearing one.

Bailey has filed one of several lawsuits over Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.

Earlier Wednesday, House and Senate Republicans issued a joint statement contending the measure will “criminalize individuals trying to protect their livelihoods and support their families,” the Republicans said, calling it “a vast government overreach at a time when business owners are doing everything they can to stay afloat.”

“We believe these emergency rules are also in direct contradiction to the governor’s own ‘Restore Illinois, plan by potentially keeping businesses deemed as non-essential closed for up to an additional five months,” the statement says. “We should not punish those who are the backbone of our state’s economy for trying to survive.”

The GOP called on the legislature’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, scheduled to meet Wednesday, to block Pritzker’s emergency rule. That would take votes from eight members of the 12-member panel, made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate.

Four House Republicans held a Zoom news conference Wednesday morning calling for a vote on Pritzker’s phased-in plan to reopen the state, all the while acknowledging that they don’t expect such a vote to be called in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly during this week’s three-day special session.

“I don’t think that the Democrats will agree with us on this, I think that’s the whole point is the fact that the governor has enacted this massive government program, really, under Restore Illinois without any input from the legislature,” said Rep. Tim Butler, a Springfield Republican.

Republican lawmakers have criticized Pritzker’s five-phase reopening plan as too strict, and have called extensions of his statewide stay-at-home order and the emergency rule for businesses that flout his restrictions “overreach.”

Pritzker’s reopening plan divides the state into four regions, a continued stay-at-home order with modified restrictions that took effect May 1. All four regions are currently on track to advance to the third phase of reopening on May 29.

Pritzker has repeatedly deflected criticism of the reopening plan, including calls for him to amend it to divide the state into more than four regions, and has said he has acted within the powers given to the governor under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

“One of the things that business owners who are foaming at the mouth trying to get their businesses reopened in a safe manner and can do that are asking for us, their representatives, to be their voice,” Rep. Dan Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, said. “And that’s simply understood. One of the ways you do that is to have input on plans, on the Restore Illinois plan.”

The crowd of demonstrators outside the convention center was smaller than some previous Springfield protests on weekends that have brought hundreds of protesters out to the Capitol steps and lawn

Few or the 150 or so demonstrators wore masks, a requirement of a modified statewide stay-at-home order that took effect May 1 for people who aren’t able to maintain 6 feet of distance from others in public.

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