SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State Rep. Darren Bailey, a Xenia Republican who respresents a portion of Effingham County, was removed from a state House session at the Bank of Springfield Center on Wednesday for refusing to wear a face mask.
The rules required members to wear a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
The Illinois General Assembly had convened in Springfield for the first time in 10 weeks, with desks spaced apart and most members wearing masks.
Prior to reconvening the session after caucus, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, spoke for several minutes with Bailey. Durkin wore a mask during their conversation, Bailey did not. When the House returned to session, Durkin urged all members to comply with the new rules.
“We cannot ignore nor compromise the health and safety of every member of the General Assembly, their family members, every one of our staffers who works tirelessly for us,” Durkin said.
"The bottom line is we have to put them before ourselves," Durkin added before lawmakers approved the rule on a 97-12 vote.
Democratic Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, of Hillside, made a motion to remove Bailey from the House proceedings after Bailey responded “I will not,” when he was asked to come into compliance with the face covering requirement in the newly-adopted rules. The House voted 81-27 in favor of Bailey’s removal.
Bailey voted against the measure. Moments later he was escorted off the floor after saying he would not wear a mask. He walked out without incident.
"The representative has shown a callous disregard for life a callous disregard for people's health," Gov. JB Pritzker said later during his daily briefing on COVID-19. "You just heard a doctor tell you why people wear masks – it's to protect others. So clearly the representative has no interest in protecting others."
Bailey could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The Legislature has canceled all its scheduled meetings since early March because of health guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic to keep at least 6 feet of space between two people, which is nearly impossible in the close quarters of the Capitol. Their return occurred along with extraordinary safety measures and a disagreement over them that led to a GOP lawmaker being removed from the House floor.
The House, with its 118 members, abandoned the Capitol chamber for the Bank of Springfield Convention Center six blocks away. Tables were spread across the vast floor to allow for social distancing, and everyone entering either the convention center or the Capitol had to undergo a body temperature check and wear a face covering to limit the chances of spreading the virus.
Lawmakers, whose scheduled adjournment date is May 31, must approve a state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 that may be one of the more challenging budgets in Illinois history. The pandemic, which has closed non-essential businesses and ordered people to stay at home, has ripped a $7 billion deficit in the current and next year's spending plan.
Pritzker and Democrats who control both houses want plans developed to provide financial relief to families and small businesses decimated by the coronavirus. But that will depend on an undetermined amount of federal aid coming to the state.
The 59-member Senate is meeting in its chamber, but not all at once. Observers will likely see a procession of people in and out with one senator presenting legislation, one speaker to rise in support or opposition of it, and small groups coming in together to vote.
Pritzker's stay-at-home order has been in place since March 21 and, under pressure to provide a roadmap to taxpayers eager to return to a former way of life, this month he produced a five-phase "Restore Illinois" plan. Pritzker has signaled that when his current stay-at-home order expires May 30, the state will move into the plan's third stage, which allows for the reopening of manufacturing and retail and allows small groups to congregate.