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Two weeks of executive orders issued by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in response to the Coronavirus pandemic


By Joe Tabor, Illinois Policy


In the last two weeks, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has issued a series of executive orders in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Illinois.

These executive orders have limited the size of public gatherings, suspended enforcement of certain laws and agency operations, and closed schools and nonessential businesses in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the state’s health care system from being inundated with severely ill patients. The governors of New York, California, and Ohio have issued similar executive orders.

But where do those executive powers come from? And what is or isn’t allowed?

While the federal government is a government of enumerated powers – it can only exercise the powers specifically granted to it by the U.S. Constitution – state governments retain what is known as “police powers” to protect the welfare, safety and health of their residents, in keeping with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This system means that states have more flexibility to act without running up against constitutional barriers. It also means states, not the federal government, have the power to tighten or loosen the restrictions ordered by state governors.

The governor’s authority to issue the recent series of COVID-19 executive orders comes from Section 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. In the case of a disaster such as a viral epidemic, the governor can issue a proclamation declaring that disaster, allowing him to exercise the emergency powers authorized in the act for a period of up to 30 days. State and local police can work together to enforce orders given under these emergency powers.

Pritzker declared a statewide disaster on March 9, triggering his emergency powers. He began issuing a series of executive orders a few days later.

Pritzker’s emergency powers include but are not limited to the following, which have been cited in the governor’s orders thus far:

  • To suspend any provisions of regulatory statute that would prevent, hinder or delay necessary action by the state or state agencies.
  • To utilize all available resources of the state government reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster.
  • To redirect state departments or agencies toward disaster response purposes.
  • To control the movement of persons and occupancy of premises within the disaster area.
  • To provide temporary emergency housing.
  • To control, restrict, and regulate the use, sale, or distribution of food, feed, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods, or services.

    Pritzker is not the first Illinois governor to invoke the Emergency Management Agency Act. For example, former Gov. George Ryan twice made use of the provisions of Section 9 that allowed him to transfer money to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency after a tornado hit Centralia, Illinois, in 2002.

    Here is a timeline of Pritzker’s executive orders so far:

    March 12:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 1:

  • Extends the application deadlines for cannabis growers, infusers, and transporters to March 30, 2020


    March 13:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 2:

  • Cancels all public and private gatherings of 1,000 people or more
  • Closes the Thompson Center to the general public
  • Suspends the two-year continuous service requirement for state employees to receive advancement of sick leave

    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 3:

  • Closes all public and private K-12 schools through March 30
  • Suspends definition of student “chronic absences” so that it will not include absences due to COVID-19 closures and absences
  • Suspends the requirement that school districts gain approval for the implementation of e-learning programs


    March 15:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 4:

  • Clarifies that the closure of schools does not close the buildings for food provision or noneducational purposes like polling places


    March 16:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 5:

  • All bars and restaurants must cease all on-premises consumption through March 30 (later extended)
  • Prohibits all public and private gatherings of 50 people or more
  • Suspends one-week waiting period for unemployment claims
  • Suspends Open Meetings Act requirement that members of a public body must be physically present. Encourages postponing official government business when possible, and when conducting government business can’t be postponed, making video and phone access available to the public


    March 17:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 6:

  • Suspends expiration of vehicle registration, driver’s licenses, parking decals, state ID cards and related proceedings
  • Suspends filing requirements for statements of economic interest by certain public officials and state employees under governmental ethics laws


    March 19:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 7:

  • Mandates health insurance issuers regulated by the Department of Insurance cover the costs of in-network telehealth services


    March 20:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 8:
    Orders residents to stay at home, barring exceptions such as essential travel for essential work or supplies, exercise and recreation, through April 7.

  • Defines essential businesses, operations and government functions that are exempt from the order
  • Reduces allowable public and private gathering size to no more than 10 people
  • Orders all law enforcement officers to cease enforcing eviction orders for residential premises


    March 23:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 9:

  • Suspends requirement that Department of Corrections provide relevant state’s attorney’s office 14 days’ notice before an inmate receives an early release for good conduct and replaces with requirement that notice be provided as far in advance as possible or as quickly as possible
  • Makes several minor revisions, clarifications or additions to previous executive orders


    March 24:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 10:

  • Suspends prohibition on hiring nursing assistants who are inactive on the Healthcare Worker Registry if they meet certain criteria
  • Extends the conditional employment period for nurse assistants pending fingerprinting/criminal background check
  • Suspends provision requiring 30-day written notice from the Department of Juvenile Justice before a youth inmates target release date and replaces with requirement that the department notify the state’s attorney’s office of release dates with as much advance notice as possible or as quickly as possible
  • Suspends requirement that Miners’ Examining Board hold an exam once every month


    March 26: COVID-19 Executive Order No. 11:

  • Suspends all admissions to the Illinois Department of Corrections from all Illinois county jails, with exceptions at the sole discretion of the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections for limited essential transfers


    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 12:

  • Allows two-way audio-video communication to satisfy the requirement that a person must “appear” before a Notary Public
  • Allows any act of witnessing required by Illinois law may be completed remotely by via two-way audio-video communication if the communication meets certain requirements
  • Allows all legal documents to be signed in counterparts by witnesses and signatory absent an express prohibition, and sets out specific procedures when the signing requires a Notary Public


    March 27:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 13:

  • Suspends requirements on the administration of assessments, school terms, and the calculation of daily pupil attendance
  • Allows ISBE to implement rules regarding remote learning
  • Permits the use of early childhood block grant funding to provide child care for children of employees performing essential work
  • Any bids received by a school district for construction purposes may be communicated and accepted electronically


    March 28:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 14:

  • Suspends provisions of the vehicle code regarding repossession of vehicles
  • Allows training for Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprinting Vendor, and Locksmith Acts to be completed through online instruction COVID-19 Executive Order No. 15:
  • Further Extends the deadlines for previously extended cannabis-related licenses to April 30
  • Directs Department of Agriculture to accept all craft grower, infuser, and transporter license applications post-marked on or before April 30, 2020 via certified US Mail


    April 1:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 16:

  • Extends previous executive orders to last until April 30

    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 17:

  • Directs that elective surgeries be cancelled or postponed
  • Protects health care facilities, professionals, and volunteers from from civil liability for any injury or death alleged, unless caused by gross negligence or willful misconduct


    April 6:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 18:

  • Allows a verbal attestation documented by the State constitutes a valid signature for applications for public assistance, rather than requiring an audio recording
  • Allows unsigned applications for public assistance received by mail to be signed by a verbal attestation by telephone

    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 19:

  • Suspends the 14-day limit for inmate furloughs
  • Allows furloughs for medical, psychiatric or psychological purposes


    April 7:
    COVID-19 Executive Order No. 20:

  • Suspends date requirements for township annual meetings
  • Suspends license renewal limits for funeral director and embalmer interns
  • Suspends supervision requirement for funeral director interns when transporting bodies to a cemetery, crematory, or final place of disposition
  • Permits persons in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who are 18 or older to remain in their placement
  • Suspends the requirement for healthcare workers that designated students, applicants, and employees must have their fingerprints collected electronically and transmitted to the Illinois Department of State Police within 10 working days, provided that they are transmitted within 30 working days of enrollment in a CNA training program or the start of employment

    Originally published by Illinois Policy on April 9, 2020. Published by permission.

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