Illinois state lawmakers are at odds over whether the Legislature – and not the governor – should decide whether to require school mandate masks as students start the school year.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday downplayed a lawsuit filed this week challenging his mask order.
Attorney Thomas DeVore filed suit on behalf of a parent of Clinton County school children saying the governor does not have the legal authority to punish schools for not following guidance from state agencies.
DeVore said the legislature failed to pass House Bill 2789 that would have allowed actions against schools that don’t follow COVID mitigations, and the governor is acting unilaterally.
“The governor is saying, ‘well I’m going to vet that power in the [Illinois Department of Public Health] and direct them to create this guidance that’s compelled against school districts and school districts, you don’t have any choice but to follow it and if you don’t your accreditation is at risk,’” DeVore told WMAY. “He just invoked the power of the legislature doing what he did.”
DeVore has sued numerous other times challenging other orders from the governor with cases that didn’t advance.
“Every lawsuit he’s filed has failed and mandatory masks in schools is something that we’ve had before and certainly we are still in an emergency,” Pritzker said.
State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the Legislature must address this issue.
“This is the very thing that we need to talk about rather than ruling executive order after executive order,” Halbrook said. “I mean, 17 months and it’s still in an emergency? I think that’s a very hard case to make.”
Separately, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said it’s best to take the governor’s approach to have schools enforce the recommendations.
“Do we really want to go to Springfield and make a law and create criminals? I don’t think so,” Ford said.
In Cook County, village of Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau said the governor is “ruling by executive fiat” just before the village board unanimously approved a resolution urging the legislature to address the issue.
“Many children have stuffed animals to give them comfort. We need to stop using our children as comfort toys for our adults,” Pekau said. “They are human beings that have rights and their parents should be allowed to make decisions that are best for their own children.”
As the school year begins across the state, Pritzker has threatened to take away schools’ recognition and funding if they don’t mandate masks.