House passes bill to allow visitors during state emergency declarations

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 5:16 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - During the pandemic, visitation was restricted in medical facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A bill moving out of the Illinois House would prevent families from not being able to visit their loved ones due to visitation restrictions.

The language of the law would still require the visitor to follow the facility’s regulations, such as mask wearing, testing, or vaccination if required. It previous passed unanimously out of the Senate and committee, but some lawmakers were concerned it was an attempt to get around Governor JB Pritzker’s executive order.

“This bill usurps the governor’s authority when an emergency order is in play,” Rep. Carol Ammons (D - Champaign) said. She eventually voted no on the legislation. “It’s really a backdoor way to usurp the governor’s emergency powers.”

She went on to express concern that the legislation would lead to a repeat of early days in the pandemic where executive orders were challenged with lawsuits.

Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Bos (R - Lake Zurich) argued this measure was a step back that needed to be taken after the immediate first days of the pandemic.

“We understood at the beginning, but now where we’re at now, it is different,” Bos said. “We all acted and reacted at the beginning of COVID-19 because we had to, and if we don’t take the steps moving forward to look back and make adjustments where we need to make adjustments, like this bill... shame on us.”

Two other Democrat representatives ended up voting against the bill as well, Rep. Will Guzzardi (Chicago) and Rep. Terra Costa-Howard (Glen Eylln). Costa-Howard expressed concern during the debate that individuals would not follow facility protocol.

In an unusual move, other Democratic representatives spoke up in support of the bill, against other party members.

Rep. Lakesia Collins (D - Chicago), a co-sponsor on the bill, said she has had a personal experience with her uncle, and imagining not being able to visit him is a reason she voted for the legislation. Other supporters, Rep. Mary Flowers (D - Chicago) and Rep. Cyril Nichols (D - Chicago) spoke of similar experiences involving not being able to visit their mothers in hospitals and nursing homes.

“I don’t think anybody should ever stand in my way, or your way or anyone else’s if we want to get our loved ones out of a place that is unsafe,” Flowers said. “I support you 100%.”

The bill passed 105-3-3. Costa-Howard, Guzzardi and Ammons voted no. Three Democrats voted present: Rep. William Davis (Homewood), Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar (Chicago) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (Evanston). Several members did not vote at all.

The bill returns to the Senate for their approval before heading before the governor.

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