The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to uphold new enforcement rules proposed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s Department of Public Health, which will give local health departments and law enforcement agencies additional tools to enforce mask mandates and other protocols implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision, reached after a hearing Tuesday, will allow those agencies and departments to issue warnings, rather than citations, for violations of state mandates regarding the coronavirus, and also empowers those enforcement agencies to issue fines of up to $2,500 for businesses that repeatedly violate state rules.
“I have always put the health and safety of Illinoisans first, and I’m gratified that local governments now have an additional way to keep their communities safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I want to thank the broad coalition of Illinoisans from around the state for their input and advocacy in support of science.”
Pritzker cited numerous state groups as supporters of the enforcement measures, such as the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois AFL-CIO, and the National Nurses United Organizing Committee as among those who supported the plan.
“These rules will provide multiple opportunities for compliance before any penalty is issued, and will help ensure that the minority of people who refuse to act responsibility won’t take our state backward,” he said.
Some business groups, including the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, said that while they support the wearing of masks, they also are opposed to mandates and enforcement options that could potentially hold them liable for customers refusing to wear the coverings.
“Doing business in Illinois during this unprecedented time of conflict and challenge is now even harder,” the group said in a statement. “Requiring masks and punishing business owners, nut customers, for not using them just doesn’t make sense. Businesses are struggling to open and stay open. We are not the problem, and yet again we are being treated as criminals.”
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association also came out against the mandate.
“Contrary to the false narrative peddled by the administration in recent days, retailers have never been against masks,” Robb Karr, the IRMA’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Instead of cooperation and collaboration, the administration chose politics and confrontation in developing this rule…Their actions have once again put retailers and their employees in harm’s way.”