SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - A dispute over masks has stalled action in the Illinois House several times this legislative session, but the arguments gained new strength after the statewide mask mandate was lifted yesterday.
In the Capitol, masks are not required. In the House chamber, they are. Certain Republican representatives argue they shouldn’t have to wear masks inside the House chamber, and it’s an argument they’ve made at least three times before.
Not all buildings are exempt from a mask mandate. Hospitals, public transit and jails still require masks. The House mask rule still stands because it is part of floor rules voted on by legislators at the beginning of the session. Democratic lawmakers argue the floor mask rules remains necessary, as over a hundred lawmakers, staffers and others work inside the chambers. They said that makes it a unique situation for COVID-19 spread.
“I do believe 118 people constitutes a large gathering,” Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) said. “Our Speaker of the House made it exceptionally clear that the House rules require that members of this body maintain the mask mandate, for which he has the authority to do.”
Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City), Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) and Adam Neimburg (R-Dieterich) were removed form the House floor via vote for refusing to comply with the House rules to mask up. Wilhour refused to leave the floor. He was not forcibly removed, but his voting box and microphone were turned off. He remained in the chamber for the rest of the day.
Caulkins and Neimburg participated remotely.
“These rules are outdated, and the only reason you guys continue to do this is because you want to have power over the minority party,” Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville) said. “When you walk on this floor, all the sudden COVID acts differently?”
Annoyance permeated off the floor as lawmakers expressed frustration with the continued political theater surrounding the issue. On both sides, they argue the continued debate takes away time to work on bills and legislation. After the three representatives were removed, the House began passing bills out of the House.
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