On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Pritzker presented his plan for a regional approach to reopen the Illinois economy. His plan seeks to restore the Illinois economy through five steps over four regions.
While initially pleased to learn a plan had been presented, after a review, I have come to the conclusion that it is more important than ever for the legislature to return to Springfield.
You can read Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Plan here. It includes a description of each phase and the benchmarks that must be met before any region may advance to the next phase of recovery. According to the Governor, all of Illinois is currently in Phase 2, and the soonest any region can move to Phase 3 is May 28.
I am not comfortable with the Pritzker plan for many reasons. They include:
The General Assembly was not involved with the creation of the plan. The Pritzker Plan, like every other element of the COVID-19 response thus far, was created without consulting the General Assembly or even the legislative leaders. As I listened to his speech on Tuesday, no mention was made of when the General Assembly will reconvene, and when he will stop unilaterally ruling the State of Illinois via executive order. Lawmakers should have been involved with the creation of this plan since it affects every one of our constituents. The same can be said for municipal leaders, who have been shut out from the COVID-19 response process since the first stay home order was issued in mid-March.
Pritzker said the plan relied on existing Emergency Medical System (EMS) districts that are already in place. Illinois has 11 EMS districts; the Pritzker plan includes only four. In New York, where a regional plan for reopening is being utilized, 10 districts were formed. If New York has 10 regions for a reopening plan, why would Illinois use only four districts? We deserve an answer to why, especially in the northern part of the state, rural counties like McHenry, Kendall and Grundy were lumped in with Cook County. It lacks common sense.
The Pritzker plan requires 28 days of certain data to meet benchmark requirements. No other state using a regional reopening approach is requiring more than 14 days to meet a new threshold of COVID-19 containment. Why is Illinois requiring double the number of days than any other state?
Discrimination toward small businesses continues. Especially with regard to retail, the plan keeps small businesses that sell the same items as big box stores at a distinct disadvantage. If the wearing of masks and use of social distancing works for big box stores, it will work in smaller stores. This plan creates unnecessary job loss and increased reliance on our woefully inadequate unemployment system. The same can be said about restaurants and bars, which would remain limited to only curbside and delivery until Phase 4, which in a best case scenario isn’t until the end of June.
A complete lack of transparency continues. Governor Pritzker continues to point to science and epidemiology, but what exactly was used for the basis of this plan? What “experts” did he consult?
Phase 4 limits gatherings to less than 50 people yet allows for schools to reopen. That math simply does not work.
I believe a much better plan could have been created if the General Assembly was part of the process. House Republicans offered a regional reopening plan that was quickly dismissed by the Governor. Again, the inequities within the Pritzker plan are proof that legislators must be called back to work so the checks and balances that are inherent within our co-equal system of government can help move Illinois forward safely and fairly.