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Illinois Democrat Governor Backs Down, Rescinds Order Making Reopening A ‘Class A Misdemeanor’
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during the daily press briefing regarding the coronavirus pandemic Sunday, May 3, 2020, at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Prizker rescinded an order making failure to comply with his coronavirus-related lockdown regulations a “class A misdemeanor” punishable by up to a $2500 fine or up to a year in jail late Wednesday after a public outcry.

Last week, Pritzker issued the order codifying the failure to comply with his lockdown restrictions as a violation of Illinois Department of Health regulations, as The Daily Wire and local outlets reported.

Pritzker defended his order as recently as Monday in his daily coronavirus press conference noting that, “This rule can only impact a business and not individuals and is a response to only a select type of violation. This can’t be used to regulate individual conduct like not wearing a face covering.”

And although his general counsel and other Illinois officials claimed no business owner would be hit with the full measure of punishment prescribed for a “class A misdemeanor” or find themselves under arrest for defying Pritzker’s orders, Illinois legislators and members of the state’s law enforcement community expressed deep concerns about the change.

State Republicans complained both that the order was too vague — leaving the boundaries of enforcement in the hands of the governor and other executive authorities — and that it superceded the job of the legislature, which is charged with making changes to Illinois state law, including Department of Health regulations.

“These rules are a legal overreach and beyond the scope of the governor’s authority,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement to media last week. “It will be a dark day in Illinois when we charge small businesses with a jailable crime for salvaging their livelihoods.”

The Daily Wire reported Wednesday that Illinois State Police said they would not enforce the governor’s order.

Late Wednesday, Pritzker seemingly admitted that he’d gotten the message.

“Those tools are harsher measures than anybody, including me, is interested in pursuing,” the governor said in his daily press conference.

“Pritzker says he wants to work with lawmakers and write more definitive legislation while they are in session.  He says he’d rather see a business owner be fined with a citation than go to prison,” local outlets reported.

“A business that chooses not to follow the rules can recover from a fine,” Pritzker added. “It is much more expensive to be stripped of a license or forced to close.”

It is also likely more expensive for Illinois to enforce such an order, not because of initial cost, but because of potential, subsequent litigation. Officials in other states, including Michigan, are now facing a barrage of lawsuits stemming from administration decisions to revoke business licenses and are defending against claims that such measures are “a taking” and a violation of individuals’ Constitutional rights.

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