SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — With the statewide mask mandate set to expire in the coming week, a Republican lawmaker is taking action against an order that would still require facial coverings inside the statehouse.
When nine GOP lawmakers refused to wear masks during session last week, a majority of their colleagues voted to kick them out and Springfield guards ejected them from the House chamber.
In the mind of one Representative, the issue was left unresolved.
Fed up with mask requirements at the Illinois State Capitol, Republican Representative Blaine Wilhour is suing House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch.
“We’re trying to move the ball forward and we’re trying to ultimately restore some sanity in Springfield,” Wilhour told WGN News. “Why should we have to wear a mask in there when the science is now pretty clear that — especially cloth masks — don’t work at all?”
That’s not exactly accurate. The CDC has said that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or respirators.
The lawsuit comes after a group of Republican representatives who refused to wear face coverings last week were barred from the House floor.
Lawmakers who were kicked out were told they could participate remotely.
“The whole thing is just ridiculous,” Wilhour said. “We made a decision that we were going to not participate any longer in things that don’t make sense.”
Wilhour says he’s arguing that being forced to wear a mask is a form of quarantine. It’s the same argument that was used in the successful challenge to the mask requirement in schools.
“The court has already ruled on that. They have ruled that masks are a form of modified quarantine,” Wilhour said. “We contend that the House can no more adopt a rule that supersedes existing state law than what ISBE or IDPH could.”
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Welch points out that the Illinois constitution states that lawmakers set the rules for the legislature and courts have previously said that a majority of legislators can make whatever rules they want. Not to mention the House approved pandemic safety protocols with support among Republicans.
A court hearing is scheduled in downstate Greenville for Tuesday at 9 a.m. Lawyers for Speaker Welch plan to attend.