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‘Restore Illinois’ group fails to meet again as COVID-19 issues mount without resolution in sight

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Economy (34) , Governor (44) , Health (49) , Unemployment (93) Butler, Tim--State House, 87 , Murphy, Laura--State Senate, 28 , Murphy, Mike -- State House, 99

(The Center Square) – The issues lawmakers are allowing the Pritzker administration to exclusively manage during the COVID-19 pandemic are mounting and the urgency to collaborate doesn’t seem to be there.

Members of the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission have different takes on how effective the group is in working with Gov. J.B. Pritzker after another week without a meeting.

The group of legislators was created through legislation passed in the truncated pandemic session in late May and signed by the governor the following month. The bipartisan and bicameral group with Democrats at the helm was supposed to meet virtually every Tuesday, but that hasn’t been happening.

State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said it’s been three weeks since the group was supposed to hear from the state’s unemployment benefits office, to no avail.

“I had another constituent call me in regards to their son not getting benefits when he was laid off in April,” Murphy said. “It’s September and this is just unacceptable.”

State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, said they’re giving some time for things to adjust, and they'll look at unemployment, health metrics and, eventually, schools.

“Down the road, what policies need to be done, so that we can stay ahead of the situation,” Laura Murphy said. “How do we help really fully restore?”

Mike Murphy said there are plenty of mounting issues, such as gun owners being in limbo with backlogs in the tens of thousands of Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards and concealed carry licenses, the state’s budget being billions of dollars out of balance, the lapse of long-term care complaint investigations and more.

“There's so much that this Restore Illinois Commission should be addressing,” he said. “Like I say, once a week for an hour is totally inadequate. We need to be meeting every day if necessary. We have enough out there to keep us busy.”

Laura Murphy said weekly meetings should be sufficient and asked for members of the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to be flexible.

“And that’s the whole thing, this virus has caused people to have to be extremely fluid, flexible and adaptable to changing conditions,” she said.

Pritzker has said he communicates with members of the General Assembly. Members of the legislature from both parties say that communication has been one way.

Republican lawmakers also are looking to get more of their Democratic colleagues to sign up for a bill that would provide a check on a governor’s executive authority.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said his House Bill 5780 should be brought up during the fall session, which is after the November election. He said his bill would force the governor to work with the Legislature and be more collaborative on responding to a pandemic.

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