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Republican Leaders Disapprove Of Governor’s Reopening Plan, Demand Late Spring Session

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File photo from 2018 of Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs)

Illinois Republican lawmakers are taking issue with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan that outlines how officials plan to reopen the state’s economy in five phases. 

The governor ordered bars and restaurants to close, and issued a stay-at-home order in mid-March that has been extended until the end of May. And this week, the governor unveiled a plan that would allow the state to open by region if any one area meets certain public health criteria. But some Republican lawmakers have expressed disapproval with some aspects of that plan.

They argue it could be months or even years before the state could fully reopen under the governor’s five phase plan, which divides the state up into four regions.

State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said regions should be able to move forward based on their current conditions.

“We need to let the data and the scientific methods and hospital utilization patterns drive how we can truly move forward in a regional process going forward.”

Under the plan, the earliest any of the regions could reopen more businesses is the end of the month.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) argues the plan would destroy many businesses in the state, especially those in the hospitality industry.

“Restaurants owners that employ hundreds of individuals, small manufacturers like barbers and hairstylists will be affected by this,” Durkin said. “Our state cannot survive this, businesses and employers cannot survive this.”

Durkin warns the plan will cause businesses to close their doors permanently, and force large and small restaurants in Illinois into bankruptcy.

Separately, Republican lawmakers told reporters Wednesday the Illinois Department of Public Health drafted guidelines for the legislature to safely meet in Springfield.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, (R-Dixon), said the governor’s office should not be the only branch of government working to address COVID-19, but that all three branches should be working together.

“That’s why we think it so important that there be a legislative process to put those variety of suggestions on the table to work through those issues and establish some type of consensus,” said Demmer. “The same way we handle every other complex issue that faces the state of Illinois.”

GOP members said the state legislature must address COVID-19 related budget complications, and tackle ethics reform, property taxes, and other policy changes lawmakers began working on in January.

Neither of the four legislative leaders has yet disclosed when lawmakers will return, but a late spring session would almost certainly involve strict social distancing policies like limiting occupancy and requiring lawmakers to be at least six feet apart.

Olivia Mitchell is a reporting intern for NPR Illinois in Springfield.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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