House GOP says Pritzker reopening won’t work

As of 5.7.20

From the State Journal Register, Springfield

House Republicans criticized Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state on a regional basis Wednesday, saying it will still harm businesses and was developed without input from lawmakers.

The Republican lawmakers also renewed their call for the General Assembly to be called back to Springfield and for several days if necessary to address a number of pressing issues beyond passing a budget. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said those include property tax relief and ethics legislation.

Pritzker announced a plan Tuesday that will reopen the state in phases and by regions as long as new cases of the coronavirus drop and adequate medical facilities are available in the event of a resurgence. It takes about a month for each new phase to kick in assuming the criteria are met. Fully reopening the state will hinge on development of a vaccine or an effective and widely available treatment regimen.

Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington said the legislators weren’t questioning Pritzker’s initial approach to controlling the virus.

“We all know the stay-at-home order was the right thing to do. Thankfully, it worked,” Brady said.

But the plan to reopen the state falls short, he said.

“The governor laid out the regional approach our caucus called for,” he said. “Unfortunately, it fails to recognize local authority. It continues to be a decree by one person.”

Under the timeline and criteria set out in the plan, Brady said, it could be “months or years” before the state fully reopens.

“What my caucus cannot accept is a plan that will essentially destroy most of the businesses in this state and particularly the hospitality sector that has been such a dynamic part of the state for so long,” Durkin said.

Durkin said the hospitality industry makes up 10 percent of the state’s workforce. However, it has been devastated by stay-at-home orders that have kept people out of restaurants and hotels.

After Pritzker announced his plan, Durkin said he was flooded with communications from businesses shut down by the pandemic “all with the same feeling of despair and devastation. Under Pritzker’s plan, if all goes well the earliest Phase 4 could be reached is the end of June,” Durkin said.

“Our state cannot survive in this way,” Durkin said. “That will force bankruptcy and permanent closure of large and small restaurants throughout the state of Illinois.”

The Republicans want the General Assembly to be brought back into session so that lawmakers can weigh in on plans to reopen the state as well as address various legislative issues.

“We must return to Springfield immediately and not for just a few days at the end of the month,” Durkin said. “We can do this in a safe and healthy manner.”

If lawmakers need a larger area in which to meet to maintain social distancing, the Bank of Springfield Center could be a location to hold the session, Durkin said.

While the budget is an important issue that lawmakers must tackle, Durkin and others said the legislature should also have input in how the state will reopen. Other issues, like property tax relief and ethics changes, should also be considered, Durkin said, even though they have largely fallen from public view during the pandemic.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, did not seem in a rush to return, however.

“First and foremost, we need to ensure the health and safety of members, staff and the general public is considered at all times when thinking about a return to Springfield,” he said in a statement. “While the governor’s actions have reduced the curve and saved lives, it’s clear that Illinois is not out of the woods. 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 of those involved as a top priority.”

Pritzker said the notion that he is single-handedly dictating policy in the state is “kind of crazy.”

“I have talked to the leaders on the Republican side, many Republican legislators,” Pritzker said. “I am frequently reaching out, listening to them. I’ve done a lot of the things they’ve asked.”

He noted that Republican lawmakers are participating in working groups that are negotiating a budget and other issues that must be dealt with.

“They’re going exactly what I think they would be doing if they were in session having committee meetings,” Pritzker said.

Brady said lawmakers being in session may give people a feeling that they are being heard about the stay at home orders. There have been some demonstrations in Springfield and Chicago from people protesting the orders. The Republican lawmakers condemned the protesters who used Nazi slogans and imagery in their protests.

“What I saw from a few individuals was nothing less than despicable,” Durkin said. “That’s not my party. There is no place for that anywhere in society.”

Contact Doug Finke:, 217-788-1527, @dougfinkesjr