Illinois has been under Pritzker’s emergency powers for nearly 22 months. Where does this power come from?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly 22 months ago, Governor JB Pritzker has used the powers conferred on him by state law to issue guidelines during the state of emergency. Using these powers, Pritzker has issued over 100 implementing ordinances, including limiting the size of public gatherings, suspending the enforcement of certain laws and administrative procedures, …
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly 22 months ago, Governor JB Pritzker has used the powers conferred on him by state law to issue guidelines during the state of emergency.
With those powers, Pritzker has issued over 100 executive ordinances, including limiting the size of public gatherings, suspending enforcement of certain laws and government activities, closing schools and certain businesses, ordering residents to stay at home, issuing mask requirements, and being in More recently, vaccinations have become mandatory for most school employees, health care workers, and daycare centers, among others.
Where do these executive powers come from? And what is allowed or not?
While the federal government is an enumerated government – it can only exercise those powers expressly granted by the US Constitution – state governments retain what are known as “police powers” to protect the welfare, safety, and health of their residents to protect in accordance with the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution.
This system gives the states more room for maneuver without encountering constitutional barriers. It also means that states, not the federal government, have the power to tighten or relax restrictions placed by state governors.
The governor’s power to make the most recent series of COVID-19 enforcement orders derives from Section 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. In the event of a disaster such as a viral epidemic, the governor may issue a proclamation declaring the disaster and allowing him to exercise the emergency powers authorized by law for a period of up to 30 days.
Despite legal challenges, Pritzker has been able to expand these powers by reissuing disaster statements each time they have expired. In December 2020, a Sangamon County judge overturned a Clay County court ruling that waived Pritzker’s expanded emergency orders.
In her ruling, the Sangamon County judge cited a ruling by the Illinois 2nd District Court of Appeals against FoxFire Tavern, a restaurant that challenged Pritzker’s ban on indoor dining. The Sangamon County court found that the appeals court found that the IEMAA allowed the governor to issue consecutive disaster statements during the same disaster. The Illinois Supreme Court then dismissed Foxfire’s appeal in May 2021.
Illinois ranks midfield when it comes to the latitude that states give their governors to exercise emergency powers, according to a report from the Maine Policy Institute. Several states have tried to curtail executive powers amid the widespread use of emergency regulations to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, but the General Assembly has shown little appetite to prevail over Pritzker’s emergency powers in the prairie state.