Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recently unveiled five-phase plan to gradually reopen the state is already getting pushback.
Some Republican state lawmakers say the governor’s approach to restarting economic activity is too slow and criticize him for failing to involve them in the development of the plan.
But Pritzker says he is being led by public health experts and data, and insists he will not reopen the state prematurely.
Republican state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (47th District) says Pritzker is setting the bar too high when he says he wants to see the virus “eradicated” before Illinois can return to normal.
“That is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do,” Mazzochi said.
She notes that the process of drug development, whether a vaccine or a treatment, takes time.
“The idea that we will have a universal, problem-free vaccine any time in the next year or so – that is a wish, not a plan. And similarly, when it comes to having an effective treatment, that is not something that the people of Illinois can count on as something that is actually going to happen,” said Mazzochi.
The governor’s plan, she said, would deprive people of their livelihoods, property rights, the right to see the doctor of their choice, and the right of children to return to school “based on a promise of normalcy that may never happen.”
Mazzochi also criticized the governor for failing to call back the legislature.
“On behalf of the entire Republican caucus we have called for session to be restored. There’s no reason why legislators can’t do their work back in Springfield,” said Mazzochi. “Would it be harder? Yes. Would it be the usual way of doing things? No. But we have a duty to people who we represent … particularly early on, who were putting themselves at risk to make sure that civilization didn’t completely come to a halt. There’s no reason why legislators can’t equally step up to the plate and go down there and get the work done.”
Democratic state Rep. Mike Zalewski (23rd District) admits that there is an “acute need” in communities and growing demand for economic activity to resume.
“I won’t deny that. I think people are very genuinely scared about their livelihoods and what they will be going back to when they return to work,” said Zalewski.
But he disagrees with criticisms of the governor’s process and plan.
“It’s been a good process simply because he is listening to health experts and epidemiologists that are responsible for protecting the health of the citizenry,” he said, adding that lawmakers were able to give advice and feedback to the governor.
“We are in contact with the governor’s office every day,” Zalewski said. “I think the governor has set up a mechanism by which we can give him input and the guidance he needs from a boots-on-the-ground perspective to adjust accordingly.”
He said that Illinois law does not appear to permit the General Assembly to meet in virtual session and that with more than 177 members it would likely be too difficult and unwieldy anyway. But when health authorities say it is safe, legislators should return.
“When we reconvene it should be in person but what that looks like is very much up for debate,” said Zalewski. “It’s going to be complicated. When we’re in Springfield the circus is in town. We have to protect ourselves, we have to protect our staff … and the public wanting to watch the machinations of government.”