Illinois is Burning, Governor. Stop Fiddling Around.

And, as is often the case, the big news of the week came on Friday afternoon, when the Illinois Department of Public Health issued an emergency rule which, in effect, turned small business owners who are deemed “non-essential” into criminals if they opened their doors in violation of the Governor’s Executive Orders. So now we have a Governor who’s willing to let murderers and rapists out of jail to make room for people who just want to earn a living, all in the name of protecting everyone from COVID-19.

IDPH already has authority under the Illinois Department of Public Health Act to bring charges against anyone who refuses to obey any Public Health regulation:

20 ILCS 2305/8.1

(20 ILCS 2305/8.1) (from Ch. 111 1/2, par. 24):
Sec. 8.1. Whoever violates or refuses to obey any rule or regulation of the Department of Public Health shall be deemed guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The Director of Public Health shall institute prosecutions and proceedings for violation of the rules and regulations adopted by the Department of Public Health…Each State’s Attorney shall prosecute all persons in his 
(!) county violating or refusing to obey the rules and regulations of the Department of Public Health… (Source: P.A. 87-895; 87-984.) (Emphasis mine)

20 ILCS 2305/2(k):

(k) Any person who knowingly or maliciously disseminates any false information or report concerning the existence of any dangerously contagious or infectious disease in connection with the Department’s power of quarantine, isolation and closure or refuses to comply with a quarantine, isolation or closure order is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

The rule was issued to bridge the gap between the authority granted in statute and those businesses deemed “non-essential”. As a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative rules (JCAR), I’ll have one of the first bites of the apple when the Committee meets this coming Wednesday in Springfield. Needless to say, I will strongly object to this rule.

Not to be outdone, on Friday afternoon, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) sent an email to owners of barbershops, hair salons and other businesses regulated by the “Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985 (I kid you not) telling them that if they didn’t follow the dictates of Executive Order 2020-32, they were at risk of having their operating licenses revoked. I find it ironic that IDFPR’s mission statement is as follows:

“The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s mission is to utilize responsive, innovative, transparent, and efficient (R.I.T.E.) governance to create an ideal regulatory environment that (1) allows economic growth to flourish, and (2) effectively optimizes consumer choice.”

Instead of threatening these businesses with the loss of their licenses, maybe we should repeal the “Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985”. These rules often amount to nothing more than rent seeking and serve no further purpose than to provide barriers to entry to people who just want to make a living. If I want someone to braid my hair (and if this shutdown goes on much longer, my hair will be long enough to do that), I should be able to let someone do it without them having to jump through all these regulatory hoops.

But Wait! There’s More!

On Friday afternoon I received a phone call telling me that the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s (IDES) website set up to process unemployment claims for “gig” workers had been hacked, but that I couldn’t say anything because the site was still up and running, with private information being made publicly available. To bring attention to it may have done more harm than good.

This is only the latest in an ongoing series of problems that IDES has had while processing new unemployment claims.

When you add it all up, and throw in the fact that Illinois is going to see a reduction in state revenue of about $7 billion in the next fiscal year, it’s quite apparent that the state stands on the edge of a precipice. I didn’t want to get all “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” here, but I think the Governor had better start opening up the state sooner rather than later, or when we all get to go outside again without him telling us how to behave, there won’t be anything to go outside for.