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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Naperville’s Pulse in Springfield – Session wrap up

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I try to keep these columns positive, but putting a positive spin on the legislature’s recent four-day session is a challenge. Bad votes and votes we should have taken but didn’t defined our time in Springfield.

I am happy to report, however, that public pressure on the Governor about his overly-restrictive “Restore Illinois” plan has had an effect. On three different occasions while we were in Springfield he announced eased restrictions to his reopening plan. As session was getting underway on May 20, we learned that an emergency rule issued by the Governor that would criminalize small business owners who violated his executive orders was rescinded. This emergency rule would have imposed a Class A Misdemeanor (a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 264 days in jail) on small businesses owners who reopened early.

The controversial provision evoked considerable public outcry and pushback by Illinois residents who felt the Governor had overstepped his authority. Legislative offices, mine included, received thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls from Illinoisans who were irate that the Governor would take steps to criminalize business owners who were doing what they had to do to feed their families and keep their businesses afloat. 

Legislators were told to expect similar enforcement rules in the form of legislation, but that bill never materialized. This is a huge win for the people of Illinois, who sent emails and made phone calls at unprecedented levels. It was due to this immense pressure that the Governor ultimately rescinded the rule and Democrat lawmakers declined to put the enforcement rules forward through legislation. 

That same afternoon, Governor Pritzker announced that when Illinois enters Phase 3 at the end of May, limited outdoor seating at restaurants, the full opening of state parks, and the opening of gyms for personal training would be allowed. This was welcome news, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Then on May 22, we received great news for child care providers. These businesses, originally listed for reopening in Phase 4, can now also open when all four regions of the state move to Phase 3. Tens of thousands more people are returning to work as a result of these changes.

Public engagement made a real difference in these instances, so please keep the phone calls and emails coming about other areas of the reopening plan you feel are overly-restrictive.

I am convinced it was pressure from fed-up Illinoisans that caused the Governor to soften his stance on elements of his reopen plan. Your voices were heard, and for that, I say thank you.

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Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.
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