These lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize small business owners who defy Pritzker order

These lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize small business owners who defy Pritzker order

Small business owners trying to save their livelihoods could face up to a year in prison under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s new emergency rules, unless a key committee fights back.

Members of a key legislative committee are scheduled to meet May 20 to discuss a newly filed emergency rule that criminalizes businesses who defy Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order.

Pritzker amended Illinois Department of Public Health rules so business owners can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for violating his closure order. The rule immediately took effect Friday, and now business owners can face a maximum penalty fine of $2,500 and one year in prison. Since this new rule was filed as an emergency rule, it would be effective for 150 days.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, is facing pressure to strike down Pritzker’s new rule at its Wednesday meeting, scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-North Aurora, a member of JCAR, announced that he will file a motion during the meeting to object to the governor’s new rule. In order to successfully block the rule, at least eight of the 12 JCAR members must approve the objection.

“A single mom doing nails in her own home to try to feed her children and keep a roof over their heads would be subject to a substantial penalty, and even jail time,” Wheeler said.

Six Republicans and six Democrats sit on the committee:

If the motion to object is approved, then the new rule would be temporarily blocked and small businesses would be spared, at least in the short term, from facing criminal penalties.

What is JCAR?

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, is a legislative committee composed of 12 members, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. Their main purpose is to approve or deny rules and regulations created by state agencies. Rules can be approved with a simply majority vote of approval by the committee. Rules can also be objected to with a three-fifths majority vote.

What is an emergency rule?

State agencies are allowed to create emergency rules when an agency determines that a “threat to the public interest, safety or welfare” exists. Emergency rules, unlike normal proposed rules, are allowed to take effect immediately, without public comment. They are also allowed to remain in effect for up to 150 days.

How do objections work?

Any lawmaker who serves on JCAR may file an objection to a rule or an emergency rule if he or she believes the rule is not consistent with law, or has an adverse economic impact on small businesses, small municipalities or nonprofit organizations.

If the objection is approved, then the rule is temporarily blocked until the agency responds. If the agency fails to respond within 90 days, the rule dies.

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