SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Some downstate lawmakers were sounding off Thursday during a virtual news conference on Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to gradually reopen Illinois during the coronavirus pandemic.
There’s been push back to Pritzker’s cautious approach to gradually reopening the state. Some suburban Chicago area mayors and business leaders are also frustrated by the slow pace of reopening.
With more than 84,000 known COVID-19 infections across the state and nearly 3,800 deaths, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reluctant to move too quickly, citing concerns about igniting another surge in infections.
But Republican state representatives from rural areas of Illinois and the Springfield area say not every part of the state is as bad off as the hotspots in Chicago.
“The governor’s Restore Illinois plan doesn’t allow for nearly enough direct input from informed local officials to be a part of the decision making process,” said State Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Springfield).
Republican House members are eager to return to the state capital. Legislators are set to arrive for an abbreviated spring session next week.
“Us going back into session really allows us to do the process in a transparent, public setting. That has not been the case over the last couple months,” said State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Peoria). “We’ve had 14 working groups in the House that have done the work behind the scenes, without public input, without the media being able to see those working groups. Now that we go back into session, the media can see what’s going on, the public can see what’s going on. We can have these debates in a public setting.”
Some Republican legislators said it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the five phase plan to reopen the state’s schools, colleges parks and businesses.
Pritzker acknowledged earlier this month, that the reality on the ground looks different depending on location.
Pritzker has repeatedly said it’s the state’s top medical experts who are guiding his decisions.
“The governor continues to mislead people to say that we just want to swing doors wide open, that’s not what we’re asking for,” said State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville). “We are asking for a way to start opening the economy so that businesses can slowly and responsibly do this.”
Pritzker said he’s staying the course for now and pointed to the hopeful sign Thursday that the Chicago region has met the criteria of phase 3 reopening the state.