As new Illinois mask mandate begins, special session to focus on maps, not COVID orders | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – Illinois state lawmakers are headed back to the capital for a special session, but it’s not to deal with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s indoor mask mandate, which starts Monday.

Lawmakers are expected to take up revised legislative maps Tuesday after Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, made the joint proclamation Aug 20.

Wendy Underhill, the director of elections and redistricting with the National Conference of State Legislatures, told Illinois lawmakers during a redistricting hearing Thursday she’s not aware of any other states set to approve new maps this soon after the latest U.S. Census data was released.

“I am not aware of any others,” Underhill said. “That does not mean there aren’t any out there. But, if there are others, I will catch them and bring them back to your attention.”

The maps expected Tuesday for special session are to replace maps based on estimates that Republicans have challenged in court.

Since the special session for the political maps was announced, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide order requiring masks indoors and vaccine mandates for all health care workers, educators and college students. The governor has been issuing executive orders for 18 months on a range of issues regarding COVID-19 without formal approval from the General Assembly.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the real focus of this week’s special session should be on the governor’s mask mandates and other COVID-19 orders.

Welch’s office said it supports the governor’s orders. Harmon’s office did not respond when asked for comment.

“Here’s the thing, the Democrat leaders, specifically Speaker Welch, is not going to do anything without the governor’s permission,” Durkin said. “I’ve been around long enough and I know how these guys operate. That’s why I went specifically to the governor to say ‘you have the authority to call both chambers in.’”

Pritzker wouldn’t commit to calling a special session when asked Thursday.

“If he truly believes that there’s a role of the legislature in the betterment of our state and also for a healthier environment for our children, then he should call for that hearing,” Durkin said.

Pritzker said he’s always open to input from both sides of the aisle.

“Well, Republicans can call hearings, and if they want to invite Democrats to it, they should and can and if they don’t want to they can still call hearings, I’m sure you all will cover them,” Pritzker told the media.

The hearings Democrats called for the revised legislative maps have been a mixed bag. One lasted three hours with civic groups saying to not rush the process. Another hearing lasted ten minutes when no witnesses showed up.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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