Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced Tuesday a set of proposed new rules requiring all representatives and staff to wear masks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when returning to Springfield for the legislative session this week.
Madigan announced last week that the House would hold session Wednesday through Friday at the Bank of Springfield Center, chosen to accommodate more social distancing among members.
In announcing that the legislative session - canceled since March amid the pandemic - would resume, Madigan asked all members to sign a pledge committing to taking various precautions like getting tested for COVID-19 before traveling to Springfield, wearing a mask and staying alone, among other measures in accordance with guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
But Tuesday he announced a proposal to adopt some of those precautions as House rules, with violations punishable by methods up to and including temporary removal from the chamber.
"Taking into account the shared concerns of House members, I am proposing we move to adopt changes to the House rules that require members, staff and the public to wear masks, submit to temperature checks prior to entering the building each day and observe social distancing guidelines outlined by public health experts while inside the Bank of Springfield Center," Madigan said in a statement, adding that members will vote to adopt the rules immediately upon convening Wednesday.
The rules are all but certain to pass, with a veto-proof Democratic supermajority in the House.
"After the motion passes, any member in violation of the rule change will face discipline, including potentially being removed from the chamber by a vote of the House," Madigan continued. "This is not an action I take lightly, but when it comes to the health and safety of members, their families, staff and the communities they represent, it is the right and prudent thing to do."
A spokesman for Madigan clarified that the vote to remove a member from the chamber would be a temporary removal, not an expulsion from office, that would last until the lawmaker complies with the rules.
Madigan's proposal came after reports surfaced that some members of the House planned on not wearing a mask while in session.
One of those was Rep. Chris Miller, a Republican from Oakland, who said Tuesday that he tested negative for the virus but walked back his earlier resistance.
"If we are required. I will play along," Miller said. "I don’t want to be a distraction from the real issues of JB's Failed [sic] leadership."
Rep. Brad Halbrook, a Republican from Shelbyville, conceded that he too would wear a mask if required.
"If the rule is adopted I will abide by it," Halbrook said. "I trust that we will spend as much time on the long overdue issues of spending reform, pension reform, property tax and many other needed reforms."
A third Republican, Rep. Darren Bailey, from Xenia, had also previously indicated he would also not wear a mask, according to multiple reports. Bailey tweeted an image Saturday of British soldiers in the American Revolution telling American soldiers, "Put on your masks," to which the Americans replied "Kiss our butts!"
The image was shared with Bailey's own logo and the hashtag "#freeillinoisfromtyranny".
Bailey - who sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker in April, claiming the governor exceeded his authority in issuing an extended stay-at-home order - did not respond to request for comment on Madigan's proposed rules.
When asked during his daily briefing on Monday, Pritzker addressed the reports of lawmakers who did not want to wear masks during session.
"I hear that there are people that are planning to show up in Springfield in the legislature not wearing a mask. Think about what that says, right? Because a mask isn't designed to protect you. It's designed to protect the people you're with," he said, calling the decision to not wear a face covering "callous disregard for people's health."
"Most of the legislators that I talked to understand that it is necessary, it is something that is, again, it's keeping the other people that you're with safe," Pritzker later added.