Illinois governor reverses order that could land business owners in jail for lockdown violations

The Democratic governor of Illinois has updated one of the state’s coronavirus policies after eliciting backlash from across the political aisle.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he is withdrawing an emergency rule that would have criminalized business owners who violated an ongoing stay-at-home order, according to Breitbart.

Earlier this month, Pritzker’s administration issued an emergency rule potentially resulting in a jail sentence or $2,500 fine for violating the order. In a statement announcing the decision, a spokesperson called it an “additional enforcement tool” meant to increase compliance among the state’s businesses.

“A tool that may be more appropriate”

Nevertheless, the spokesperson noted that only “businesses that pose a serious risk to public health and refuse to comply with health regulations” would be cited by police.

“The rule gives law enforcement a tool that may be more appropriate and less severe than closing the business altogether,” the administration source concluded.

Pritzker soon faced backlash over the rule, including from Illinois State Police. The agency issued a statement clarifying its position and how officers would respond to violations.

“The Illinois State Police will only apply those emergency rules to entities such as corporations, LLPs or other business entities consistent with state and constitutional law,” the department explained. “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.”

“Something the Senate Republicans strongly opposed”

On Wednesday, the governor decided to update the order, confirming that alleged violators will now be pursued through legislative channels.

“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will allow us to have these tools throughout the Restore Illinois plan versus an emergency rule that would be withdrawn and rewritten at the start of phase three and then phase four,” Pritzker said.

While Pritzker did not mention the GOP criticism, at least one Republican state senator saw the announcement as “a big win” for his party.

“The idea of criminally charging small business owners for trying to stay open to support their families was something the Senate Republicans strongly opposed,” state Sen. Dave Syverson said.

As more Americans push for a return to something resembling life as usual following months of shutdowns, announcements like Pritzker’s reveal a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

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