Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Prizker has said he plans to extend the state’s coronavirus-related lockdown order well into June, but, fearing that Illinois residents will begin flouting his edicts, he’s now threatened any business owner who defies his stay-at-home order with jail time.
In other states, Democrat governors have revoked licenses, threatened closure, and even arrested those who open businesses in defiance of state lockdown provisions, but Pritzker appears to want to head off conflicts by simply laying out his response in advance.
The governor’s office “filed an emergency rule that would penalize owners of restaurants, bars, gyms, barbershops and other businesses for reopening before coronavirus restrictions are lifted,” The Hill reports.
The emergency rule makes reopening early a “class A misdemeanor,” which, in Illinois, carries with it a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.
The governor’s office claims that the emergency rule is merely a tool for law enforcement — an “additional enforcement tool for businesses that refuse to comply with the most critical aspects of the stay-at-home order,” per a Pritzker spokesperson.
“Law enforcement has relied heavily on educating business owners about the order and always first discusses the regulations with business owners to urge compliance,” she added. “Only businesses that pose a serious risk to public health and refuse to comply with health regulations would be issued a citation.”
Other members of Pritzker’s administration claimed that running afoul of the rule change was akin to “getting a traffic ticket.”
“Nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed,” the governor’s general counsel told media, per The Hill. “But they are getting a citation where they would have to go to court.”
The change was, however, enough to concern Illinois residents, who are already living under some of the nation’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns. The governor claims the state has yet to “flatten the curve” and that Illinois will not reach a “peak” of coronavirus cases for at least several more weeks, prompting the continued restrictions. Critics, however, point out that outside of Chicago’s south and west sides, coronavirus cases in Illinois are in steep decline. Some counties in Illinois saw fewer than a dozen cases.
States near Illinois, like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa, have begun the slow process of reopening.
Legislators in Illinois are also concerned with the governor’s rule change, noting that it is the legislature’s job — not the governor’s — to make updates to the law and set punishments. One Republican legislator seemed to indicate that he and others will challenge the governor’s decision.
The new emergency rule @GovPritzker that makes it a crime to violate his executive orders is an affront to the separation of powers. Legislatures make laws. Governors enforce them. Period. https://t.co/SfX7SXFoo4
— Dan McConchie (@DanMcConchie) May 17, 2020
“Legislatures make laws,” he noted on Twitter. “Governors enforce them. Period.”
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Ed note: The article mistakenly referred to the rule change as making reopening a “class A felony.” It is actually a “class A misdemeanor,” as evidenced by the attendant punishment (less than a year in jail, which is correct). We regret the error and have updated the article to reflect the change.