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Local

Pritzker withdraws emergency rule that would penalize businesses for defying stay-at-home order

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday withdrew an emergency rule that threatened a misdemeanor charge against businesses that reopened against his stay-at-home order.

A bipartisan legislative committee was set to review the rule Wednesday morning. If accepted, the rule would have remained in effect for 150 days. The committee's discussion didn't make it that far, however.

"Thanks to all of you who called, e-mailed and made your voices heard, the governor has withdrawn his emergency rule threatening to punish small businesses with a Class A Misdemeanor for trying to protect their livelihoods and those of their employees," state Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said in an official statement.

Pritzker has said that defying an Illinois Department of Public Health Act rule is always a misdemeanor, and described the rule as simply another "tool" for local law enforcement.

Legislators, however, immediately questioned claims that the rule would only impact businesses, and not individuals, since misdemeanors are typically punishable by up to a year in jail and a hefty fine.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he expects the governor's office to reintroduce the rule sometime within the next month.

"They’re going to come back with a rule that will penalize individuals and businesses with at least fines, maybe jail time," McSweeney said.

Numerous county sheriff's offices in the state have said they will not enforce the stay-at-home order.

State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, called the the withdrawal "proof" that the legislature can keep governmental overreach at bay during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Today it was announced that Gov. Pritzker will repeal his emergency rule in light of broad opposition to the idea of turning small business owners into criminals," McConchie said. "This is an important win in the fight for people's rights during this pandemic."

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, agreed the rule was an overreach that harmed business owners who "are doing everything they can to stay afloat."

"This is a step toward restoring proper checks and balances to state government, just as our Illinois and U.S. Constitutions require," Wilcox said.

Republican committee members also said the emergency rule exemplified why the governor's pandemic response should be subject to more legislative oversight.

"The governor was forced to listen to the huge public outcry over what would have been a massive overreach of power and correctly agreed that the it should go through the full legislative process, where they can be thoroughly vetted," said state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris.

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