SPRINGFIELD, IL — It’s unclear what, if anything, state lawmakers or Gov. J.B. Pritzker plan to do about the conflict between the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and a 1998 state law, The Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
Pritzker mandated vaccines or regular testing for health care workers, educators and college students. If not, they’re not to be allowed at work.
But, arguments are being made that the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA) protects Illinoisans from being discriminated against in their job for not complying with a medical procedure.
In Adams County, health care workers are suing their employers under the act.
Some schools are excluding staff with some staff saying the HCRCA protects them. Some school officials say possible lawsuits using the HCRCA are why they’re not excluding school staff for not complying.
A teachers’ union told members to expect the issue to surface during the upcoming veto session.
“It is possible that the General Assembly may amend the HRCA to make it clear that requiring a test for Covid is not a violation of the act,” a letter sent to teachers covered by the Springfield Education Association. “Expect to hear more about this during the Fall veto session.”
“Balancing individual rights with caring for the community can be a challenge in a free society,” the SEA letter said. “For those unwilling to get the vaccine, testing to be sure that you are not unknowingly spreading a virus that has killed so many and caused health concerns for so many members of our community is a small sacrifice to protect our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said addressing the HCRCA through legislation would be the first major action Democrats have taken on policies concerning COVID-19.
“I don’t think they wanna be put in that vice-like position, but the governor’s pushing it,” Rose said. “We’ll see. But I’ll just simply submit to you that no matter what the outcome, at least it’s a democratic outcome, unlike what we have now, which is a dictator.”
Rose said for nearly 20 months the Democrats in control of the state legislature have sat by while the governor manages the pandemic.
“The Democrats aren’t standing up for anything, we’ll see what happens,” Rose said. “The governor is demanding they have a vote on this Health Care Right of Conscience Act because I think the governor finally realizes even he doesn’t have the authority to overturn that statute.”
Rose said legislators are the ones elected to make policy, not the governor.
The governor’s office hasn’t responded to requests for comment. Illinois Senate President Don Harmon’s office said it’s a situation they’re learning more about.
Lawmakers return Oct. 19.