Gov. J.B. Pritzker reversed course Wednesday, withdrawing a recent emergency rule that allowed for businesses to face Class A misdemeanor charges if they opened in violation of the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
Pritzker said his administration withdrew the rule "in order to pursue legislation with the same intended mechanism in a phased manner in line with the Restore Illinois plan."
"Enacting this measure through legislation will allow us to have these tools throughout the Restore Illinois plan versus an emergency rule that would be withdrawn and rewritten at the start of phase three and then phase four," Pritzker said during his daily coronavirus press briefing.
Still, he defended the rule, saying it "brought Illinois in line" with a national practice and gave local officials "more flexibility in their ability to enforce this order with a citation."
Pritzker's administration implemented the new rule Friday that would allow for businesses to face Class A misdemeanor charges if they open in violation of the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
Under the new rule, put into place by executive action on Friday, businesses could face misdemeanor charges if they do not comply with orders to remain closed. If convicted on the charges, businesses would face fines between $75 and $2,500.
Illinois State Police had already said Tuesday they did not plan on issuing criminal misdemeanors to people violating the state's stay-at-home order, but instead intended to focus on businesses and corporations.
"No individual will be arrested or taken to jail for a violation of the executive orders or emergency rules," the department wrote on Facebook Tuesday. "We encourage all citizens to continue to do their part to maintain public health as we move forward in the days ahead with Reopening Illinois."
Pritzker noted Monday that despite the new rules in place, no such charges were issued over the weekend.
"Nobody is you know, sending police forces in to break up activity, you know, across the state," Pritzker said during his briefing. "What we are doing is enforcing using lots of different methods, enforcing using our licensing capability and our ability to pull licenses from businesses. We're using our ability to make sure that that, you know, the towns that are following this get funded properly and those that don't don't. And so there are lots of ways in which you know, we can enforce, we will continue to work on that enforcement."
The order was blasted as an executive overreach by some Republican lawmakers, but Pritzker insisted that it’s actually less punitive than other measures that could be used as an enforcement tool. He urged the General Assembly to take up the legislation this week.
"Given the important of what we are trying to do here, we will look to file an additional rule if legislation does not occur," he said Wednesday.
All four of Illinois' healthcare regions are so far on track to enter a third phase of reopening at the end of the month, but many businesses say the timeline isn't soon enough.
Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through May 30, but some regions could begin loosening restrictions as early as May 29.