GOP state senators seek curb on governor’s power

Rezin, DeWitte blast Pritzker’s ‘overreach’ on pandemic

State Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles, and state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, appeared at a town hall meeting in rural Oswego on Oct. 12. The two lawmakers blasted Gov. J.B. Pritzker's use of executive orders to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mark Foster)

OSWEGO – Two area state senators blasted Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic during a town hall meeting and touted legislation that would give lawmakers the ability to limit the governor’s emergency powers.

Republicans Sue Rezin of Morris and Don DeWitte of St. Charles appeared before about 110 people from Kendall County and beyond on Oct. 12 at the Northfork Farm banquet facility in rural Oswego.

The two lawmakers charged Pritzker with “overreach” for repeatedly invoking emergency powers and governing by executive order.

“He has given order after order after order, with no legislative oversight,” DeWitte said of the governor. “Businesses have been treated unfairly and people have been put out of business,” the senator said.

“The governor says he is following the science but he has never showed any of us whose science he is following,” DeWitte said.

Rezin asserted that the state’s COVID-19 situation has been improving and asked rhetorically: “When are we going to be coming out of the pandemic?”

The senators said that there is a legislative solution that would give lawmakers more control.

Senate Bill 103 would require approval by the General Assembly for any subsequent renewal of a governor’s emergency powers after the initial 30-day state of emergency declaration.

Rezin and DeWitte said Pritzker has made 20 emergency declarations and issued 90 executive orders over the course of nearly 600 consecutive says.

The legislation currently is bottled up in the Senate’s Assignment Committee, DeWitte said.

Meanwhile, the two lawmakers said they are working on a legislative fix that would directly affect the legal battle between Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville and the Illinois State Board of Education.

After the academy informed the ISBE that it would not comply with Pritzker’s mask mandate for all schools in Illinois, the board responded by revoking Parkview’s official state accreditation.

In the case of public schools, there is a 30-day notification period for the state board to take such action, followed by a 60-day remediation period, DeWitte said. For private schools, notification and revocation can happen on the same day, he said.

“We want to require the ISBE to give the private schools the same due process as public schools,” DeWitte said. “Let’s level the playing field. If they won’t do it administratively, we will do it legislatively.”

DeWitte praised the Sept. 29 decision by Kendall County Judge Stephen Krentz to issue a temporary restraining order in the case, effectively restoring Parkview’s status.

“We called out the ISBE on this issue and the judge agreed,” DeWitte said. “We think that’s significant.”

“This was an overreach by government,” Rezin said. “We believe that this is a local choice.”

The Oswego town hall was the first of a “listening tour” by Rezin, in which the 38th Senate District lawmaker is teaming up with GOP colleagues.

Rezin’s district includes southern Kendall County and reaches into Grundy, LaSalle, Putnam and Bureau counties.

DeWitte, a former two-term mayor of St. Charles, represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes a large portion of Kane County and reaches into McHenry County.

Rezin emphasized her negotiations on the recently approved Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Act. The senator said she worked to preserve jobs at nuclear power plants in her district.

“Thousands of six-figure jobs were on the line,” Rezin said.

DeWitte praised Rezin for her efforts.

“I’ve watched how fearlessly Sue worked on energy for the 38th Senate District,” DeWitte said of Rezin. “She was a tiger when it came to negotiating that energy bill.”