Chesney Guest Column: Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan Fails its Title

When the Governor unveiled his Restore Illinois Plan on May 5th, I was, at first, optimistic. From a 30,000-foot view, the plan was regional with phases of re-opening the state for business so we can begin the critical economic recovery in Illinois. However, as they say, the devil is in the details. As I read and reviewed the plan intently over the coming hours, I quickly saw that there are many unworkable elements of the Governor’s plan.

Let me start by dispelling a common notion⁠— “Do your job, legislators!” A common refrain and a sentiment with which I agree. The legislature in Illinois is a co-equal branch of government, along with the executive and judicial branches. The legislature has an important role to play in making the laws, the governor enacts the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws.  The legislature, however, has not met since early March, nearly two months ago. Typically, the legislature would be feverishly working through our Spring Session and negotiating a State Budget before Session ends May 31st. None of that is happening. Why? 

The answer is that the Democrat leaders running Illinois have blocked the legislature from meeting. Speaker Madigan, despite my direct ask via letter to meet prior to May 5th, has full control over when and how the Illinois House meets. He responded to calls from Republican lawmakers by citing safety concerns and providing no date-certain for when the legislature will convene. This is simply unacceptable, but well within the Illinois House Rules and procedures to which we operate

Back on January 30, 2019, via press release, I wrote about my vote against these same House Rules, saying at the time, “the previous and new House rules stifle debate and give the Speaker total control, despite our status as a representative democracy. The rights and responsibilities of legislators to represent their constituents and attempt to pass legislation on their behalf has been under attack in these rules for decades.”

Those words not only still ring true, but now you can see why these rules were so important to preserving the independence of the legislature as a truly co-equal branch. Under these rules, members of the minority party have no ability to move or vote on legislation on behalf of their constituents. Full stop under this one-party rule.

What would you hear from me on the House Floor if your voice was not being muzzled by Illinois Democrats right now? You would hear that I do not agree with the arbitrary designations of the regions of the State that the Governor established. These regions are not driven by science or even logic. They are not based on hospital catchment areas, but rather on EMS zones. I believe counties ought to be able to partner with other counties on county-level re-opening plans instead.

The first opportunity restaurants and bars will be able to open under the Governor’s plan is June 26 AT EARLIEST. Those restaurants and bars open for carryout and delivery are operating on 15% revenues, according to the National Restaurant Association. Many of these small businesses will simply die under this extended delay.

The date of the start of Phase 2 was arbitrarily set as May 1, for no good reason. The science did not guide this decision either. Many areas were tracking healthcare data well before May 1, and should be properly classified in another, later Phase under the metrics established by this Governor. Illinois also requires 28 days between phases, where CDC guidelines and even the State of New York guidelines, only require 14 days between phases.

Under the Governor’s plan, typical in-person church services would not be able to be held any time soon. In fact, there is no date-certain for re-establishing Illinoisans rendezvous with their faith community through in-person services.

Frankly, too many parts of the Governor’s plan are arbitrarily established and totally absent of public policy critique. Further, there have been disturbing, constitutionally frightening remarks made by Governor Pritzker about enforcement of people attempting to exercise their faith. Are Illinoisans ready to surrender these rights to ONE elected official on their behalf? We are now looking at potentially no in-person school in the Fall or spectators at Fall high school sports. Are we ready to accept no “Friday Night Lights”? No trick or treating for Halloween? Limiting family holiday celebrations with fewer than 10 family-members?

How does any of this “Restore Illinois”?