By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – On just the third day of legislative session since March 5, Senate Republicans called a socially distanced outdoor news conference Friday morning to argue for a more collaborative approach to state government and pandemic response going forward.
“This discussion needs to go beyond 2:30 in the afternoon press conferences,” Sen. Minority Leader Bill Brady said outside the Capitol, referencing the daily COVID-19 news briefings held by Gov. JB Pritzker.
Brady, of Bloomington, said the briefings are useful in informing the state, but the General Assembly needs to have a more prominent role than just a 3-day legislative session when it comes to restarting the state’s economy.
“And we have a duty and an obligation to represent the people, and we’re calling on the General Assembly, its leaders and the governor to provide that venue, so that we can make collective decisions about how we reengage Illinois’ economy in a safe way for its citizens and the people we represent,” he added.
Brady was accompanied by members of his Senate Republican caucus on the Capitol grounds, all of them masked and at arms’ length from each other.
“We understand that there’s probably never been a time in the history of our state that it needs its government more than it does during this pandemic,” he said.
“We should not go home until we come up with a bipartisan plan that the Legislature and the governor work on to reengage this state. The people of Illinois expect it, and they deserve it,” he said.
While Pritzker has frequently said he remains in consultation with Republican lawmakers and elected officials across the state, Brady said that’s not the proper avenue for legislative deliberation.
“I talked to the governor yesterday. I talked to him a couple times,” he said. “He listens. And then he goes with his experts and he does what he wants. That’s not a debate. That’s not a discussion like we’re used to and the people expect us to have.”
Pritzker said he disagreed with the leader’s comments during his news briefing later in the day.
“Bill knows better,” Pritzker said when asked about the comments. “The truth is that I’ve talked to many, many Republican legislators, you’ve seen changes that I’ve made along the way. Many of them have been recommended by Republican legislators. And as to staying in town, look again they are co-equal branch, the Legislature has the ability to do that.”
Pritzker added that lawmakers want to make sure they are meeting safely, and said ultimately, “it’s up to them and I’ll be here.” Both chambers planned to be back in session at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Brady said he believes rank-and-file Democrats want more input on the governor’s plan as well.
“There’s only one way we’re going to have fiscal sanity in this state, and that is to reengage our economy as fast as we can and as safely as we can,” he said. “And there are a lot of people we represent are asking, ‘Why does the governor prohibit us from doing this and that?’ That’s why we need this discussion. It shouldn’t just be the governor making these decisions.”
Brady introduced Senate Bill 3993 this week, backed by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, directing IDPH to establish the Safe Place of Business protocols on or before May 30 to give guidance to all businesses and allowing them to reopen once protocols are met.
Brady said that bill “checks the governor’s authority” and requires him to seek General Assembly approval to extend a disaster declaration beyond 30 days.