According to multiple reports, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration filed an emergency rule Friday that could potentially allow for businesses who open in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home order to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
The rule, which was published by multiple outlets including WTTW in Chicago and The Center Square, would codify opening a business in violation of the stay-at-home order as a violation of Illinois Department of Public Health regulations, according to the reports.
A Class A misdemeanor can be punishable by a fine of $75 to $2,500, according to Illinois state law.
Ann Spillane, one of Pritzker’s top attorneys, defended the rule change as a “very mild” enforcement action, designed to encourage businesses to abide by the provisions of the “Restore Illinois” reopening plan.
“It’s like a traffic ticket, she told WTTW. “Nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed, but they are getting a citation where they would have to go to court.”
Previously, the governor had indicated that businesses violating the stay-at-home order could face liability issues, with insurance companies potentially canceling policies for those violating state laws.
Pritzker had also said his administration would consider other actions, including revoking liquor licenses or withholding federal relief funds from entities violating the order.
The new rule change targets businesses, not employees, according to the governor’s attorneys.
Illinois Republicans do not agree, calling the action an overreach by the governor and saying that legislators deserve a say in how the state’s restrictions should be implemented.
“These rules are a legal overreach and beyond the scope of the governor’s authority,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement. “It will be a dark day in Illinois when we charge small businesses with a jailable crime for salvaging their livelihoods.”
The move by Pritzker comes as opposition continues to build to restrictions remaining in place. Many counties and municipalities have threated to allow businesses to open, while sheriff’s departments in Kendall and McHenry counties have said they will not enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Currently, Illinois will likely move into Phase Three of its reopening plan at the end of May, which would allow non-essential businesses, including hair salons and spas, to reopen with capacity limitations and safety procedures in place.
Restaurants would not be allowed to open to dine-in service until Phase Four of the plan, which currently can’t go into effect until at least June 26.