‘This plan does not work’: Illinois House Republicans pan Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening road map
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‘This plan does not work’: Illinois House Republicans pan Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening road map

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SPRINGFIELD — Republican lawmakers in the Illinois House on Wednesday gave scathing reviews to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s regional five-phase plan to reopen the state’s economy.

“This plan does not work,” House GOP leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said on a videoconference.

“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. “I took an oath of office to faithfully discharge my duties in the coequal branch of government called the legislature. I did not abdicate nor relinquish my elected responsibilities to the executive branch.”

Durkin said he appreciated Pritzker incorporating some suggestions from him and other members of his caucus in the modified stay-at-home order that went into effect Friday. But he said the General Assembly needs to have a greater role in determining how and when businesses are allowed to reopen.

Pritzker on Tuesday laid out a road map for reopening businesses, schools and other facilities based on metrics such as the rate of new infections and available hospital capacity in each of four regions. He said the plan was based, in part, on input from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The final phase of Pritzker’s plan, when conventions, festivals and sporting events resume, won’t kick in until there’s a vaccine, treatment or widespread immunity to COVID-19.

Until then, “the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” Pritzker said at his daily briefing Tuesday.

Durkin called on House Speaker Michael Madigan to reconvene the House under safety guidelines prepared by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Speaker Madigan, you set the calendar,” Durkin said. “Mr. Speaker and the House Democrats, get back into the game. Get your head out of the sand, and let’s go back to work.”

A spokesman for Madigan did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

All the GOP House members on the call Wednesday said they supported the governor’s stay-at-home order and appreciated the changes made in the new version that went into effect Friday -- now labeled Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan.

But they said the four regions in the plan are arbitrary and said decisions about when to reopen should be evaluated on a more local level.

“We have some real input to offer, some guidance about how things might be done different,”said Rep. Tom Demmer, a Dixon Republican. “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.”

Durkin said the prolonged shutdown envisioned in the governor’s plan would be devastating to many of the state’s businesses, particularly in the restaurant industry, which wouldn’t be allowed to reopen for dine-in service until late June at the earliest.

“Without a smart, well-thought-out plan to reopen, there might not be anything left to reopen,” he said.

Durkin’s Senate counterpart, GOP leader Bill Brady of Bloomington, issued a statement Tuesday questioning, in particular, the 28-day period during which hospitals must show no overall increase in admissions for COVID-19-like illness before a region can move to the next phase of the plan.

Wednesday updates: Coronavirus and Central Illinois

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