Madigan to make masks a must? Speaker wants bare-faced members booted from session
“Staff and members of the public not observing the rules will be asked to leave the premises immediately,” Madigan said. “I look forward to focusing on the critical work needed to ensure our state can continue to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis and provide relief to people struggling around the state and not on needless distractions.”
With a downstate legislator planning to show up bare-faced to the first General Assembly session since the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic hit, state House Speaker Mike Madigan on Tuesday proposed new rules requiring all members, staffers and observers to wear masks.
Anyone not adhering to those rules would be “asked to leave the premises immediately.”
Madigan previously asked House members to follow safety precautions recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which also include submitting to temperature checks and following social distancing guidelines.
But with state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, insisting he’ll show up maskless to make a point to “Chicago legislators” at the session — held outside the state Capitol Building to allow for distancing — Madigan said the rules will be formalized with a House vote to prevent “needless distractions.”
“After the motion passes, any member in violation of the rule change will face discipline, including potentially being removed from the chamber by a vote of the House,” the powerful Southwest Side Democrat said in a statement. “This is not an action I take lightly, but when it comes to the health and safety of members, their families, staff and the communities they represent, it is the right and prudent thing to do.
“Staff and members of the public not observing the rules will be asked to leave the premises immediately. … I look forward to focusing on the critical work needed to ensure our state can continue to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis and provide relief to people struggling around the state and not on needless distractions,” Madigan said.
Bailey, who filed the first court challenge against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extended executive stay-at-home order, did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment.
But he he has said that he doesn’t trust the state health department.
“If I was concerned about my health — and if I firmly believed what the governor said about staying home — I would stay home,” Bailey told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday. “So, some of these Democrat representatives are buying all in to staying home, so why on Earth are they coming to Springfield to put themselves in harm’s way?”
Bailey said Monday that not wearing a mask is his way of making Democrats face facts.
“These Chicago legislators are making more of a deal of wearing a mask in Springfield than they are about, you know, getting this $7.2 billion deficit that we’re staring at with our budget,” he said.
A few other state representatives had suggested they might not wear a mask, including Rep. Brad Halbrook. He initially said he was on the fence, but after Madigan announced the new rules, the Shelbyville Republican said he’d follow them.
“We are getting hung up on this mask issue and our state is crumbling financially,” Halbrook said. “We have really big issues when it comes to budget pressures, this pension issue, this potential graduated income tax constitutional amendment — the list goes on and on.”
State Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland, has also questioned the face mask recommendations from state and federal public health experts, but had been undecided if he would wear a face covering during session this week.
The Coles County farmer has said wearing a mask might mean playing Madigan’s “reindeer games,” but he also is concerned that not covering his face might become a distraction.
“On the other hand, I don’t want the story to be about a few downstate representatives who refuse to wear masks,” Miller said Monday.
Miller also did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Masked legislators and lobbyists won’t be the only change when the Legislature convenes Wednesday for the first time since March 5. While the state Senate will meet at the state Capitol, the House will convene at the Bank of Springfield Convention Center to give representatives more space for social distancing.
The last time either chamber met outside the Capitol was during statehouse renovations in 2006. That time the House met in the Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858 — and the Senate in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Contributing: Neal Earley