Eye On Illinois: Even if masking settled, clarity still needed on executive powers

“This ruling is a disappointment, but that does not mean we will ever stop fighting.”

“Enough is enough.”

The first quote is from Dec. 30, the second from Feb. 15. Both are words of Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, reacting to legislative and judicial outcomes that put him squarely opposite Gov. JB Pritzker

In December, McConchie vowed to keep working toward changing the way political maps are drawn in Illinois. Last week, he wanted Pritzker to stop seeking a court to endorse his school-based COVID mitigation rules.

From a purely objective standpoint it’s worth wondering why the people supporting a lawsuit about due process are encouraging the defendant to abandon their own, but voting is objective when politics are involved.

That said, McConchie’s positions aren’t in conflict with each other if considered in their proper context: his position we shouldn’t rely on the judicial branch to establish policy. With regards to redistricting, he and other Republicans have long crusaded for legislation that would create an independent mapping commission. In respect to COVID-19 rules, Republicans have introduced bills that would clarify when and how state agencies can act.

As is usually the case in Illinois, significant reform emanating from the minority party has little chance of advancement. And until last week, when three Democrats on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to suspend Illinois Department of Public Health emergency rules, the legislative majority has appeared quite content to let the governor primarily respond to COVID-19 through executive order.

The Illinois Supreme Court should hear the state’s appeal on the mask mandate lawsuit. Not in order to reinstate rules, but to fully assess the underlying question. Although Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow issued a temporary restraining order, the judicial branch still hasn’t conclusively settled whether she was right to do so or whether Pritzker overstepped his authority in the first place.

Consider Fourth District Appellate Court Justice Lisa Holder White, who partially dissented from Thursday’s ruling:

“Defendants asserted the governor implemented masking, exclusion and testing through the executive orders pursuant to his authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Act,” White wrote. “The majority’s decision leaves open the question of whether the circuit court properly enjoined the enforcement of the executive orders.”

Pritzker’s team interpreted the EMA Act as superior to the Public Health Act, and even if no one is forced to wear a mask to school this year it’s not good for Illinois to have that question remain unresolved.

Legislation unequivocally addressing this distinction would prevent future uncertainty. It might not pass, but committee and floor debates would be far superior to the confusion and controversy of recent weeks. We shouldn’t stop fighting for that clarity.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at