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Monday, 18 May 2020 18:58

IL Business Owners Could Do Jail Time Under Pritzker's New Emergency Rules

Written by Greg Bishop, The Center Square
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks in downtown Chicago in this June 5, 2019, file photo. Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks in downtown Chicago in this June 5, 2019, file photo. AP Photo/Amr Alfiky

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Illinois business owners found guilty of violating the governor's stay-at-home-orders could land in jail for up to a year under new emergency rules filed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker late May 15, two months into his executive response to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Under executive orders issued by the governor, restaurants haven't had dine-in guests since March 16. Pritzker then issued an executive order March 21 closing all businesses to the public that he considered nonessential. The order was extended twice, from April 7 to April 30, and now through the end of May.

 

Pritzker has insisted local and state police will enforce his orders, but also empahisized they'd educate and seek voluntary compliance. The governor has also said someone could be charged with reckless conduct for violating his orders and that he has the power to revoke state business licenses and withhold tax money from local governments.

 

The governor’s extended executive orders have been challenged in court from multiple individuals and groups as the Legislature has refrained from clearing the ambiguity over whether Pritzker’s emergency authority can be extended beyond a 30-day period. There have also been areas of the state in the past month in which local elected officials have said they would not enforce the governor’s orders.

 

The rules filed May 15 add to the state’s public health laws and include a section called "Pandemic or Epidemic Respiratory Disease---Emergency Provisions." It says restaurants can’t have dine-in, certain retail can only do curbside sales, gyms must stay closed and salons and tattoo shops can’t operate during a pandemic.

 

“Businesses and establishments located in airports and hospitals are exempt from the requirements of this Section” for food and drink businesses, the rules state.

 

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, who is suing the governor over his extended executive orders, said the timing of the new rules is interesting as more people say the governor has exceeded his authority.

 

“You got state’s attorneys, you got Illinois sheriffs saying, ‘We are not going to prosecute, we are not going to do this,’ and I think it’s his way of trying to get people back under control while his family is still in Wisconsin and Florida and other places not following the orders themselves,” Cabello said.

 

The governor has been criticized for ordering Illinois residents to stay at home while his family has traveled between Pritzker homes in Florida, Wisconsin and Illinois.

 

“It’s unfortunate that the administration felt the need to do this because I think it will likely make the situation worse,” said Mark Grant, Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “We’ve seen a variety of communities, businesses, lawmakers and groups such as mine ask for greater flexibility in the re-opening of parts of Illinois in a responsible way. This act, filing emergency rules, seems to double down on the governor’s stubbornness to ignore anyone outside of his inner circle.”

 

“We would have preferred a measured and fruitful dialogue among government, municipalities and the business community,” Grant said.

 

The Joint Commission on Administrative Rules could block the emergency rules at its upcoming meeting, which is scheduled May 20. If the rules aren’t blocked, they’d be in effect for 150 days.


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