Senate Week in Review: September 20-24, 2021

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker issued more Executive Orders last week, continuing his year-and-a-half long streak of unilaterally controlling the state’s response to COVID-19. As of Sept. 23, the Governor has issued more than 90 Executive Orders.

Because Gov. Pritzker ordered a vaccination mandate for congregate workers before negotiating with the employees, he was forced to include a delay for the requirement in one of his Executive Orders.

That same order also contained an Oct. 3 expiration date of the Governor’s controversial moratorium on residential evictions.

Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) finally issued guidance to Executive Order 2021-22, which requires school personnel to either be vaccinated or get tested weekly. ISBE’s guidance came two days after schools were required to comply with the Order.

Pritzker forced to delay vaccination mandate

Gov. Pritzker has been forced to extend the deadline for state employees in congregate facilities to be vaccinated. The delay is due to the fact that the Governor had issued the vaccination requirement before negotiating a solution with unions representing the workers, a necessary step before implementing that type of mandate.

State employees at state-owned or state-operated congregate facilities now have until at least Oct. 14 to get vaccinated. The extension came on Sept. 17 in Executive Order 2021-23, which also now requires all contractors and vendors at these facilities to be vaccinated.

The mandate on employees at facilities such as Corrections and long-term care had an original deadline of Oct. 4.

The latest extension comes as negotiations between the Governor’s Administration and AFSCME are ongoing.

Illinois eviction moratorium extended

On Sept. 21, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled to extend its order limiting judgments in certain eviction cases, aligning with Illinois’ current moratorium deadline.

This decision comes after Gov. Pritzker once again extended his original March 2020 Executive Order banning residential evictions to Oct. 3, 2021. The moratorium on evictions was set to expire on Sept. 18.

Under the Governor’s most recent Executive Order, court proceedings are permitted, but law enforcement are prevented from carrying out evictions. However, tenants protected by the order must meet certain eligibility criteria to be considered a “covered person.”

Evictions are allowed in health and safety circumstance, and for tenants who refuse to fill out paperwork for assistance, cannot provide proof of hardships due to the pandemic or those who earn an income of more than $99,000 individually or $198,000 jointly.

ISBE updates schools guidance, after deadline for compliance

In what has become a seemingly common practice during the COVID-19 era, one of Gov. Pritzker’s recent Executive Orders created new mandates for Illinois schools with little of the necessary information on how the schools should move forward. In this case, Pritzker ordered schools to follow a rigid vaccinate-or-test mandate with a deadline of Sept.19. The Illinois State Board of Education finally released guidance on the new mandate on Sept. 22, two days after the deadline for compliance.

The current mandate requires school personnel to be vaccinated or to submit to weekly testing. According to the updated guidance, schools are encouraged but not required to provide testing, and they may use federal pandemic relief funds to pay for testing programs. Numerous school officials have said that the new mandate is adding to the already large workload of mandate compliance, as they now have to manage testing programs for teachers who choose not to get vaccinated. Outside testing options may be limited for schools in rural areas.

Schools across the state have been loudly critical of the Pritzker Administration’s continual stream of Executive Orders regarding education, which have effectively stripped much of the decision-making power from local school boards and the families that the boards answer directly to.

During the summer, the Pritzker Administration had briefly reversed course, saying that school districts and school boards would make decisions for the schools within their districts. Within just a few weeks, the Governor flipped his position back with a new Executive Order taking decision-making authority on issues such as masking and safety rules out of the hands of schools.

Recently, dozens of school administrators jointly penned an op-ed critical of the Governor’s approach, describing it as “an incremental dismantling of local control in public education.” They noted that the “top-down decisions” appear to be a “continuation of the pattern of higher officials substituting their judgments for those of local school boards.”

The full op-ed can be read at https://www.pjstar.com/story/opinion/columns/guest/2021/09/18/opinion-illinois-students-best-served-local-boards-not-state/8350113002/ .

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