SPRINGFIELD — Confusion and pushback regarding the enforcement of masks mandates spilled over onto the House floor Wednesday during the legislative session after Republicans refused to comply with face covering requirements.
Earlier in the pandemic, lawmakers had approved House rules requiring face coverings to be worn in the chamber unless eating, drinking or speaking into the microphone.
But during Tuesday’s session, House GOP members entered the chamber without wearing masks and released a joint statement saying that the mandates have “gone on long enough” and that it is “time to return to normalcy.”
And on Wednesday, state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, who was among the GOP members refusing to wear a mask, requested an immediate vote on a resolution he sponsored to lift the face covering requirement altogether.
But Majority Leader Greg Harris, who was presiding over the chamber, denied the motion, saying it did not have unanimous approval.
Caulkins then requested for all lawmakers to be removed from the House in accordance with the COVID-19 mitigation rules that also require legislators to submit to a temperature check prior to entry.
No such temperature checks had been conducted Wednesday.
Harris agreed to have doorkeepers and House staff check the temperature of each lawmaker present in the chamber, but Caulkins objected and argued that it must be done “prior to entry.”
The Decatur Republican argued that the House should follow all of the rules or none of them.
All lawmakers passed the subsequent temperature check.
After that, state Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, motioned to remove Caulkins and fellow GOP state Representatives Adam Niemerg of Dieterich, Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, Blaine Wilhour of Beecher City, Chris Miller of Oakland, Andrew Chesney of Freeport, and Martin McLaughlin of Barrington Hills, if they do not comply with the House rules requiring face coverings.
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But Republicans requested an immediate caucus. After about an hour, lawmakers returned and quickly adjourned to committee for the day without any further commotion about the mask mandates.
The incident illustrated the general statewide confusion over mask mandate enforcement, according to one GOP member who was wearing a face covering Wednesday.
State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, who was an early proponent of masks even before the governor’s mandates, said that with recent court rulings regarding mask mandates in schools and a lack of clarity from lawmakers and the governor on masks rules, many Illinoisans are confused as to what is actually required.
“I think what we are seeing right now is the chaos that the General Assembly has let happen with school boards and people throughout the state,” Batinick said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.