Illinois lawmaker files bill to limit governor’s emergency powers

(The Center Square) – As Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to implement his third emergency order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, new legislation would require the governor to get permission from the General Assembly instead.

The legislation filed by state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, would still allow the governor the ability to declare a state of emergency and use executive orders like Pritzker has done, but once that initial 30-day order is up, lawmakers would have to convene and vote to allow the governor to do it again.

McConchie said state law allows for a 30-day emergency declaration, but doesn’t give guidance in subsequent orders.

“There’s nothing in current law that prevents him from renewing that proclamation every thirty days indefinitely,” he said. “Anytime the governor is going to renew his proclamation of a disaster area, he [would need] General Assembly approval before he could do so.”

In cases like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where lawmakers would be putting themselves in danger by convening, McConchie said there is a provision for that as well.

“If the legislature is unable to vote because of concerns over health and safety, then the four legislative leaders can instead approve the declaration as long as they do so in writing and do so unanimously,” he said.

A judge in Clay County lifted Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order Monday for one state lawmaker who challenged it.

Other states have taken measures to limit their governor’s executive powers. In Michigan, lawmakers initially voted to allow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to extend her emergency declaration but have since begun to pass legislation that would put limits on her authority. She has also faced lawsuits over some of her executive orders.

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