Continued demand from lawmakers check governor’s COVID authority

Continued demand from lawmakers check governor’s COVID authority

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Republicans continue to push for a bill to limit a governor’s ability to issue consecutive executive orders. Democrats largely support Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s unilateral rule 20 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pritzker has issued more than 90 executive orders and 20 months’ worth of disaster proclamations during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve ranged from a stay-at-home order that lasted 10 weeks to orders prohibiting in-person economic activity, closing in-person schools, indoor masking and more. Last week, he reissued a series of executive orders for another 30 days.

During floor debate Tuesday on a House resolution to extend remote voting for Representatives through the end of the year, House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said allowing legislators to vote on bills remotely is important as lawmakers focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So that every person who lives in the state of Illinois has a chance to have their voice heard by the vote of their Representative during our deliberations,” Harris said.

But, Republican state Rep. Dan Ugaste said during a news conference Tuesday his constituents’ voices are not being heard. He’s been trying without success to get a hearing for his House Bill 843 to require the legislature to approve consecutive executive orders after the initial 30 days, like what’s been issued by Pritzker more than 90 times since March 2020.

“The governor and the majority party has denied a co-equal branch of government and the people, their voice, to be heard in this state,” Ugaste said.

While some Democrats, like state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, have expressed frustration with the governor’s unilateral rule during the pandemic, state Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said the governor needs to be free to make quick decisions.

“We’re the slow-moving wheels of democracy and the governor’s office in an emergency situation cannot be burdened by that,” Martwick said.

Even 20 months into the pandemic with COVID cases and hospitalizations decreasing and vaccinations increasing, Martwick said it’s still an emergency.

But, Democrats have tackled large issues during the pandemic, like criminal justice reform and sweeping energy legislation.

State Rep. Averey Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said it’s clear to her what the Democrats’ motives are.

“Marching the state further and further to the left and becoming more and more progressive and doing something to hold their governor, the head of their party accountable, is not something they’re interested in,” Bourne said.

Republicans say having the legislature more involved in setting out guidelines in statute with public hearings and expert testimony from all sides will spur more public buy-in, something they say clearly isn’t there in areas of the state.

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