Bill would broaden Illinois agency’s emergency powers

Bill would broaden Illinois agency’s emergency powers

A bill expanding emergency powers for a state agency passed the Illinois Senate and is in the Illinois House. Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared COVID-19 an emergency for more than 3 years, so why is the bill needed?

Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill which would broaden powers for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and its Office of Homeland Security.

Specifically, it “Provides that the Agency shall do all things necessary, incidental, or appropriate for the implementation of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act,” Senate Bill 3434 reads.

State Sen. Win Stoller, R- Germantown Hills, said agencies such as IEMA would get broad powers under the bill.

“That’s a lot of power that the department is looking for and it begs the question, ‘Why is all that necessary?’” Stoller said. “It was mentioned in committee that sometimes you need to trust the department to do the right thing. If there’s one thing that makes me nervous, it’s when the government says, ‘trust us.’”

The bill’s chief sponsor is state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago. It has already passed in the Illinois Senate, 39-19. Villanueva said it’s needed when emergencies arise.

“IEMA handles emergency management and I think what we are trying to get addressed in this bill is as those incidences come up and as things happen, we want to be able to have the authority to be able to move with flexibility and move swiftly,” Villanueva said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent 1,155 days of his administration with emergency powers because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which expired in May 2023. Each declaration was only intended to last 30 days, but Pritzker kept extending the emergency on his own authority for more than three years without state lawmakers ever weighing in on the policies Pritzker was imposing. The state is currently under a disaster declaration over the influx of asylum seekers that started in September 2022.

Declaring a disaster gives the IEMA power to “implement the State Emergency Operations Plan, coordinate State resources, and aid with emergency purchases necessary for response.”

The Illinois House assigned the bill to the rules committee. The chamber adjourns on May 24.

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