House Republicans lead JCAR vote to halt Gov. Pritzker’s school mask mandate

The bicameral Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted 9-0-2 today to block re-implementation of Governor JB Pritzker’s mask mandate for K-12 public and private schools in Illinois in the wake of the February 4 temporary restraining order issued by Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow declaring the Governor’s emergency rules as they apply to schools "null and void."

“Parents and children across Illinois deserve certainty and clarity amid all the confusion and chaos created by Governor Pritzker’s decision to continually go it alone and work only through the courts instead of with stakeholders and families,” Representative Wheeler said in a statement. “Locally elected school boards who are accountable to parents and know best for their districts, along with their local health department experts, should be allowed to make decisions on COVID mitigations that fit their communities best. With JCAR’s bipartisan ruling today, there is no statewide mask mandate in effect for schools, and the decision now belongs with the local school districts.”

All three House Republican members of JCAR voted to reject re-implementation of the Governor's mask mandate, including Deputy GOP Leader Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), Assistant GOP Leader Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), and Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock).

The Governor’s emergency rule on COVID mitigations for Illinois schools expired on Sunday, February 13. The Administration immediately re-filed the rule on Monday, putting it back into effect unless JCAR voted affirmatively to block it with a minimum of 8 members on the 12-member committee. Nine members voted to suspend the Governor’s emergency rule, with zero voting to keep it in place and two members voting "Present."

During the hearing, Representative Wheeler suggested to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) official testifying on behalf of the Pritzker Administration that the agency could have shown respect for the ongoing judicial process by issuing guidance to Illinois schools on recommended COVID mitigations instead of re-filing them as mandates in the form of an emergency rule. The IDPH official rejected that suggestion, reiterating the agency's position of pressing forward with mandates rather than guidance. Moments later, JCAR voted to approve a motion blocking re-implementation of the Governor's mask mandate via emergency rule.