State legislators will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 1B of Illinois’ vaccine distribution plan.
A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the decision was made at the “request of members of the General Assembly” and will allow any of the 177 state legislators to receive the shots.
“The state of Illinois has urgent and vital business that must be addressed, and we hope that the General Assembly will engage in a robust and productive schedule in coming weeks and months,” Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker, said in a statement.
State Republican leaders disagreed with the move, saying legislators shouldn’t be allowed to “leapfrog” members of the public.
At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, called moving legislators up in the vaccine line “ridiculous.”
“I’ve been critical of the governor’s management of the COVID-19 crisis,” McConchie said. “Since last March, I have talked about the fact that the governor shouldn’t continue his ‘go it alone’ approach, that the Legislature should be, as a co-equal branch of government, actively involved.”
McConchie said he’s reintroduced legislation to ensure that emergency proclamations “can’t be endless but has to bring in the legislative branch as a part of that process.”
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, echoed McConchie’s concerns. Durkin said he and others have received calls and emails from people who are “extremely frustrated” by the vaccination process because they qualify for the vaccine but aren’t able to get an appointment to get it.
“We need to wait our turn,” Durkin said. “And if we have members of the General Assembly who have preexisting conditions, they will have an opportunity to go before most of the public, but we should not leapfrog over anyone in this crisis.”
The state moved into Phase 1B a little over a week ago, a category which broadly includes people 65 or older and those classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as front-line essential workers — including teachers, first responders and grocery workers.
Lawmakers don’t fit into the definition of frontline workers per CDC guidelines, but they requested the vaccine in order to get their work done, Abudayyeh said.
Members of the House and staff were told to self-quarantine after their lame duck session last month because someone at the Bank of Springfield Center tested positive for the coronavirus. The chief of staff for Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and two others also tested positive for the virus.
Concerns around COVID-19 led both the House and the Senate to scrap their upcoming session days; the House still plans to meet for one day, Feb. 10, to pass the rules that will govern their procedures.
The state Senate — which has held its limited session days at the Capitol during the pandemic — also canceled days scheduled last month, but plans to meet in Springfield on Feb. 9 and have virtual committee hearings.
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February 3, 2021 at 11:36AM