GENEVA – State Representative Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) is proposing
that any Disaster Proclamation by the Governor of Illinois, for which a
previous disaster declaration was already made, should be approved by the
majority of state legislators from both houses of the Illinois General Assembly.
“First let’s begin by stating this is in no way a criticism of the way which Governor Pritzker has addressed this public health crisis,” said Ugaste. “While the Illinois legislature will have its work cut out for it to ensure our State recovers from the current crisis, one thing that needs to be done now is for the legislature, a separate and equal branch of the government, to approve the extension of the Governor’s Disaster Proclamation beyond the original 30 days.”
The language of the Illinois Emergency Management Act specifically states that the Governor may exercise specific emergency powers for a period “not to exceed 30 days” (20 ILCS 335 (7)), yet the combined length of the Governor’s two recent Disaster Proclamations concerning the Covid-19 crisis is well over 30 days.
“The statute, as currently written, is silent on the role of the Legislature when the Governor issues a Disaster Proclamation. It is also silent about the Governor’s ability to extend a Disaster Proclamation beyond the original 30 days. Therefore, in an effort to ensure the system of checks and balances between co-equal branches of government in the State of Illinois continues, the legislature needs to be given the opportunity to affirm the Governor’s most recent Disaster Proclamation,” said Ugaste. “In fact, given the opportunity, I anticipate that given the current circumstances, the legislature will affirm the most recent proclamation,” Ugaste continued.
Ugaste believes this can be done with a simple Memorandum of Understanding signed by the majority of each chamber of the legislature or a Joint Resolution without the need to have all regular personnel of state government meet at the Capitol in Springfield. In addition, as soon as the current public health crisis ends and the Legislature returns to Springfield for Session, Ugaste plans on filing a bill to clearly state the roles of the Governor and the Legislature for any such emergency in the future.
Ugaste concludes that although he firmly believes that the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government should weigh in on the Governor’s most recent proclamation, it is not clear under the current statute that the Governor does not already have the power to issue a second proclamation. Therefore, pending any approval by the Legislature, Ugaste states that “all Illinois residents need to continue to conform to the restrictions currently in place or risk violating the law.”