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Republicans target Pritzker’s emergency rule, aim to protect business owners from criminal offenses

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SPRINGFIELD (WEEK) - The Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules could decide the fate of Gov. JB Pritzker's emergency rule Wednesday. Many business owners are concerned, as the rule states they could face a Class A misdemeanor charge for violating the stay-at-home guidelines.

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) said his office received 7,000 emails and more than 1,000 voicemails over a 48-hour period, calling for the committee to suspend this rule.

"Filing these emergency rules to extend criminal penalties to businesses and individuals all over Illinois, to me, is an abuse of emergency rule-making," Wheeler said. "We should not punish those who are the backbone of our state's economy just for trying to survive."

Wheeler plans to file a motion suspending the rule. However, he'll need two Democrats to join him for the motion to pass. The Joint Committee has six Democrats and six Republicans. Additionally, other members of the House Republican caucus say their constituents won't consent to the governor's "heavy handed" approach.

"Ask the General Assembly"

"We the people have a way to figure out if we need a new criminal law in Illinois. You just don't use regulatory tricks, you don't do it at undercover of darkness," emphasized Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst). "You do it transparently. You ask the General Assembly and they vote."

Mazzochi says Pritzker's stay-at-home order has made Illinois an outlier compared to other states. "Who voted to weaponize business licenses and utility hookups against small businesses because they're not on board with government by 'I said so,'" asked Mazzochi. "We didn't."

Pritzker says his emergency rule would only last until the end of Phase 2 of his Restore Illinois plan. Currently, all four regions of the state are on the right track to move into Phase 3 on May 29. Pritzker plans on filing a new emergency rule at that point.

"It's really intended to be a lighter version of a kind of enforcement mechanism rather than taking away somebody's liquor license or shutting down the business entirely," Pritzker said Tuesday.

However, Wheeler doesn't agree with Pritzker's interpretation that law enforcement are only issuing citations to businesses. He feels the governor could have found another path to create a citation through the General Assembly.

"Let us put together a piece of legislation that makes it a petty offense or a business offense, so it's completely taken away from being something that a regular person could have to deal with jail time for," Wheeler added.

Howard Packowitz

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