Illinois Governor Threatens Biz Owners With Year in Prison If They Reopen, State Police Refuse To Enforce

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is threatening business owners who defy his order not to reopen with a year in prison.

Outrageous and a power grab if ever there was. Thankfully, Illinois State Police will refuse to arrest and lock up these citizens.

“No individual will be arrested or taken to jail for a violation of the executive orders or emergency rules,” the department wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “We encourage all citizens to continue to do their part to maintain public health as we move forward in the days ahead with Reopening Illinois.”

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Illinois Policy Org. wrote about the move:

“Without mentioning it in his press conference on May 15, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker filed a new executive order to change how businesses that violate his stay-at-home order are punished. They can now face criminal charges.

Pritzker on his own amended Illinois Department of Public Health rules so business owners can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for violating his closure order. He made the change without consulting the General Assembly, the branch of government tasked with creating laws. The rule immediately took effect on Friday, and now business owners can face maximum penalties of a $2,500 fine and one year in prison.

Members of Pritzker’s administration said this change is just a new “tool” for law enforcement to use that does not require businesses to lose their licenses or be shut down altogether, according to WTTW. They defended the unilateral move by arguing prosecutors have said they cannot take action against violators because the state had no punishment in place. Pritzker’s rule codifies violations and makes it easier for violators to be prosecuted.

Pritzker’s attorney, Ann Spillane, called the rule a “less dramatic” alternative and that “nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed.” Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly agreed that it was not designed to punish people, but rather a way to enforce the closure of non-essential businesses and that enforcement would be done through communicating with owners first.

That’s not how many view it, especially given Pritzker wrote the law himself.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the order is “a legal overreach and beyond the scope of the governor’s authority.”

Assistant House Minority Leader Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, agreed and said it was “the latest in a series of missteps that illustrate just how little [Pritzker] cares about the small business owners who provide the majority of jobs in this state.”

“This latest unilateral decision by the governor is one more reason why the executive branch should be working with the legislative branch on responses and solutions to the current health pandemic. The checks and balances we provide are critical to our state. These business owners are only trying to survive and to salvage what for many has been their life’s work,” Wehrli said.

State lawmakers will have the opportunity to review the rule change. Eight of the 12 members on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules can reject it to keep the rule from continuing. If eight members fail to vote against it, the rule applies for the next 150 days.”

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