Republican from Machesney Park is second GOP lawmaker to sue Pritzker over the order

ROCKFORD — State Rep. John Cabello filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging Gov. JB Pritzker’s extended stay-at-home order.


Cabello, a Republican from Machesney Park, is the second GOP lawmaker to challenge Pritzker’s legal authority to extend the stay-at-home order longer than 30 days. State Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia in southern Illinois won a temporary restraining order releasing him from the stay-at-home order after filing a similar lawsuit in Clay County court. State Attorney General Kwame Raoul has appealed the decision in the 5th District Appellate Court and has also asked the state Supreme Court to take up the matter immediately.


"Using the authority of his office granted by the Illinois Constitution and the Illinois General Assembly, Gov. Pritzker has implemented emergency measures that have saved lives during a crisis that has cost Illinois so much," Raoul said in a statement. "In fighting the threat to public safety, Gov. Pritzker has not exceeded his authority under the law by taking emergency action for longer than 30 days."


In the lawsuit, Cabello says he’s filing on his own behalf and on behalf of all people in Illinois. That’s a key distinction from Bailey’s lawsuit, which only applied to the lawmaker himself.


The lawsuit argues that Pritzker only has emergency authority for 30 days and by extending his stay-at-home order is unjustly ordering people to shelter at home for longer than he is allowed.


"Pritzker has perverted the emergency provisions of the (Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act) in an effort to rip the sacred responsibility of the health and lives of the people away from where the legislature placed it, being local control of county health departments of the (Illinois Department of Public Health), and in doing so he took complete control of the free movement of every citizen within the state of Illinois, which for all intents and purposes has created a police state," the lawsuit states.


Pritzker issued a statewide stay-at-home order that went into effect March 21. It was set to expire April 7, but last week the governor extended it through May 30, although several restrictions will be lifted on Friday and people will be required to wear face coverings when in public.


Cabello’s lawsuit, which was filed in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Winnebago County, seeks to have the executive order voided and any subsequent orders blocked.


"Even if well intentioned by Pritzker, his actions as governor have left every citizen of this state completely devoid of any procedural due process rights to protect their liberty afforded them by the United States and Illinois Constitutions, and further guaranteed them by the legislature under IDPH’s own administrative rules," the lawsuit states.


On Tuesday, Pritzker said the lawsuits filed by Bailey and Cabello are "shameful acts on the part of these partisan actors." He was asked again about Cabello’s lawsuit on Wednesday and called it "irresponsible."


"We’re in the business here of keeping people safe and healthy. That’s what the stay-at-home order has been about," Pritzker said. "I just think that lawsuit is just another attempt at grandstanding."


Cabello said in a phone interview Wednesday that he had a "respectful conversation" with the governor’s office Wednesday morning and wants lawmakers to be able to work with Pritzker on solutions that keep residents safe without the burdensome stay-at-home order.


"We’re not doing a political stunt," Cabello said. "We want to work together to move this state forward, not in a partisan way."


Cabello’s lawsuit, unlike Bailey’s, does not seek a temporary restraining order to block the stay-at-home order pretrial. He said he would file for that in the future if he’s unable to work with the governor’s office.


He wants small businesses that have been struggling during the order to be able to operate with the same social distancing safety protocols that big box stores like Walmart and Meijer have implemented during the pandemic.


"Other businesses can do this in a safe manner just like the other big box stores that are open, so that the working class families that are staring bankruptcy in the face, that are staring their children in the face thinking to themselves how am I going to put food on the table, have an avenue to move forward with a common sense approach," Cabello said.


Pritzker said big box stores were only allowed to be open because of the essential grocery services they offer. He said they are working on plans to allow small businesses to open in the future with social distancing requirements in place.


"There is no doubt about it that the first thing that I want to be able to do across the state is to open up those smallest of businesses," Pritzker said. "Those folks have risked their lives, risked livelihoods rather, and all of their savings to open up a business and along comes this terrible pandemic that nobody expected."


Attorney Dave Vella, a Democrat who plans to challenge Cabello for his 68th District state House seat, released a statement Wednesday condemning Cabello’s lawsuit as "reckless" and saying it "seems to be about John and his politics, not our community."


"This is a situation that demands a measured, controlled response," Vella said in the statement. "Rather than wasting time and resources in our courts and sending out political press releases trying to get attention, Rep. Cabello should be working with state and local leaders, medical experts, and economic experts to develop solutions to get us out of this crisis and focus on reviving our economy."


Kevin Haas: khaas@rrstar.com; @KevinMHaas