Illinois lawmakers took the rare move of temporarily kicking out one of their members Wednesday.
Members of the House voted to remove Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, for refusing to wear a mask during a special legislative session, as required by new ruled adopted to stop the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier on Wednesday, Bailey had told WTTW News that he had brought a mask but would make a spur-of-the-moment decision about whether to wear it.
He said he would be “led by the spirit and decide in the moment.”
Bailey is suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker over the executive orders Pritzker has issued in light of the pandemic; a court date is set for Friday.
While Bailey’s actions may not have been popular with his colleagues, he is beloved by members of the Reopen Illinois movement, hundreds of whom rallied outside the convention center where the House is meeting. They cheered for Bailey when he arrived, at times chanting in support of him for governor.
Many also waved American flags and wore shirts either in support of President Donald Trump or against Pritzker.
The governor, meanwhile, was forced to withdraw an emergency rule his administration quietly filed on Friday that would have allowed police to issue misdemeanors for businesses that allowed customers to dine and shop in defiance of his coronavirus orders.
In a statement, Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, said: “Don’t under-estimate the power of Illinois residents to speak up and be heard. In just the past 5 days, tens of thousands of Illinois residents and small businesses contacted the Governor’s office and legislative members of JCAR—the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. That outpouring of opposition had its effect. The Governor’s decision to stand down and withdraw this rule today is a win for Illinois Main Street businesses, most of whom are family-run operations struggling to get by in an already extremely difficult situation.”
By statute, a misdemeanor is punishable by either a fine or by jail time.
Pritzker said his intent was never to put someone behind bars for resisting protections he said are intended to protect the public health, but critics say it goes too far, punishing business owners trying to make a living while prisoners are being released to avoid having them catch the coronavirus.
The fight isn’t over.
Instead of an emergency rule, Pritzker is urging the General Assembly to pass a law with the same objective.
Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, said the bill will make clear that businesses would only be penalized in civil, not criminal court.
The goal is to have a “soft touch” Cunningham said, while still giving law enforcement tools to enforce public health measures at a difficult time.
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