A loss of democratic norms in Illinois: 24 straight Executive Orders over nearly two years

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker

One of the Illinois legislature’s biggest failures during the pandemic has been its complete abdication of responsibility over the management of the pandemic itself. Lawmakers have let Gov. Pritzker run the state’s response via executive fiat for nearly two years.

The result has been a disaster for democratic norms. Regardless of whether you agree with the governor’s COVID actions, the legislature should strip Gov. Pritzker of his emergency powers as we enter 2022.

Unfortunately, they won’t. 

Previous attempts to bring back the legislative process have been tried to no avail. 

Republicans Sen. Dan McConchie (SB103) and Rep. Dan Ugaste (HB 843) both introduced bills in 2021, but with Republicans’ super minority positions in both houses, their proposals went nowhere.

Rep. Ugaste told Wirepoints this about the need for the legislature to engage: 

“I am both amazed and outraged that despite our sworn duty to support both the Illinois and the United States Constitutions, not even one of my Democrat colleagues has agreed to join my efforts ending this unconstitutional abuse of power by executive orders.

Furthermore, the Governor’s abuse of power and sidelining the Legislature, a co-equal branch of government, is not only a breach of his oath of office, but it is incomprehensible that any person raised in this great Nation believes they should solely exercise that much authority over the lives of nearly 13 million people.”  

Some lawmakers say they’re happy to not interfere with the COVID mandates and support the governor’s orders. Fine, but the General Assembly should pass its own laws that render the governor’s executive orders unnecessary. 

Rep. Chris Welch said something to that effect when he was first elected speaker. From the Chicago Tribune:

“Amid the pandemic, lawmakers seldom met in Springfield last year, and state policy was primarily driven by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

‘We want to let people know that the legislature is back in business and we’re going to be engaged in the government process in 2021,’ Welch said.”

Welch’s commitment to a more active legislature this year should be welcome news for Republican lawmakers, who for months have lamented Pritzker’s “governing by executive order” during the pandemic and have pushed for a return to in-person sessions in Springfield.”

Nearly a year later, and we’re still waiting for lawmakers to end the executive orders.

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