By: Mark Glennon*
Governor JB Pritzker, still operating with claimed emergency powers, has now adopted a more despotic and threatening position toward dissent.
Pritzker was asked Wednesday about the Illinois Attorney General informal opinion recently published by Edgar County Watchdogs saying a governor’s emergency orders may last only 30 days. If you haven’t read it, do so. While it is an informal opinion, it’s firm and clear. Pritzker, however, claims he can issue successive 30-day orders as long as he pleases, a position the opinion expressly rejects.
Here is Pritzker’s non-answer:
The Attorney General’s Office has not issued that to us, and indeed the attorney general’s office is handling legal matters for the governor’s office, for the stay at home order to defend it. We do have the legal right to issue those executive orders especially here in the context of a disaster declaration. And as you know, that’s something that enables the governor of the state to take actions to protect the health and safety of people across the state and that’s what I’ve been doing.
As a lawyer himself, Pritzker knows full well he was just thumbing his nose at a critical question that demands a substantive answer. That the AG’s opinion was not directed to Pritzker does not diminish its significance. The remainder of his answer says nothing.
The Attorney General’s office has been in court on Pritzker’s behalf taking the opposite position from its earlier opinion. One court that has ruled on the 30-day issue went against Pritzker. The arguments made by the AG’s office on Pritzker’s behalf were, as we wrote earlier, cringeworthy. Another court in Chicago, as recently reported, sided with Pritzker on the issue, as did a recent federal court decision.
Defiance is growing.
Among the evidence, a number of law enforcement officials have refused to enforce Pritzker’s order, probably in part because the fear personal liability which was discussed in a leaked memorandum within the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Madison County board members Tuesday passed a resolution recommending a phased plan to reopen the county, officially going against Pritzker’s Pritzker’s statewide plan to reopen Illinois. Leaders representing DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties on Tuesday called on Pritzker to remove their areas from the Northeast region under Pritzker’s opening up plan. And at least four lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts challenging Pritzker’s order, with more certain to come.
Earlier, Pritzker repeatedly softened his order by saying he was leaving enforcement to local authorities.
But now Pritzker is directing threats and insults to anybody defying him. Loss of business licenses, use of the Illinois State Police and withholding of federal funds are all on the table now.
And if you hold a different view than him it’s because deaths aren’t “real to you,” Pritzker says. See for yourself in his comments Wednesday:
I know leaders across the state are struggling with these choices. I have sympathy for them in that struggle. But what I don’t have sympathy for is those so intent on disregarding science and logic, so afraid to tell their constituents what they may not want to hear, they put more people’s lives at risk.
Here’s what I want to say to those leaders who weren’t elected to do what’s easy. We’re elected to do what’s right. For the small minority of businesses that choose to ignore the medical doctors and the data and to ignore your legal obligations for the residents of your communities, there will be consequences.
Businesses and individual professionals that are licensed by state agencies will be held accountable for breaching public health orders. Counties that try to reopen in defiance may not be reimbursed by FEMA for damages they cause because they ignored the law. Local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police can and will take action.
But there is no consequence the state could impose that is greater than the harm that you will do to your own communities.
192 Illinoisans lost their lives to this virus in the past 24 hours. 192. How is that not real to you? More people will get sick, get admitted to the hospital and die if we don’t stay the course and follow the guidance the experts have provided to the elected officials out there, or playing to the crowd that ignores science and carries symbols of hate.
Pritzker did make a rare apology – for saying professional baseball players were wrong to be asking for full salaries. But the unions presumably reminded him that’s a matter of collective bargaining, so Wednesday he said, “I want to apologize for leaving the impression that baseball players shouldn’t have the right to bargain to protect their health and safety. I absolutely support that right, and I should have made that more clear.” State public employees in Illinois continue to receive full salaries and pension accruals regardless of whether they are working.
Nobody should be surprised. Pritzker is responding to dissent exactly as we should always fear when czarlike powers are challenged – with vengeance, claims to superior knowledge and assertion of still more power.
This column was updated to include reference to the two most recent court decisions on the 30-day rule that sided with Pritzker, and to reflect that the opinion described in the second paragraph was an informal written opinion.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
Read more about COVID-19 and the impact on Illinois:
- Indifference to Illegality of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order is Frightening
- Half of Illinois’ COVID-19 deaths linked to retirement homes. Five key facts you should know
- Wirepoints analysis reveals 92 percent of Cook County COVID-19 victims had pre-existing conditions
- With New FDA Action, Gov. Pritzker and Dr. Ezike Have No Excuse for Further Stonewalling Antibody Testing
- Pritzker’s top-down reopen strategy will fail large parts of IL: He should expect pushback
- Governor Pritzker’s Plan to Reopen Illinois Makes No Sense
- Open Illinois’ economy: Recessions and depressions kill
- COVID-19: Seven facts that tell us Illinoisans can and must get back to work
- Reopen the Economy While Protecting Those Truly at Risk or Face Another Great Depression
- Illinois’ COVID-19 crisis: Daily data update