House session to convene on Wednesday
After more than two months on the sidelines, the Illinois House will re-convene next Wednesday, just eleven days before the scheduled end of session. Among the important items we will need to work on during that short time is the passage of a balanced budget. Many other bills could also be considered as we respond to the coronavirus outbreak and keep the essential functions of state government going.
This will certainly be a unique session, as we will have to do our work while observing social distancing at all times. The House session will not happen at the Capitol, but in the convention center in downtown Springfield where there is more space for social distancing. This will allow enough physical space for the session to proceed and still be accessible to the public. It is not unheard of for the House to meet somewhere besides the Capitol: in 2007 when the House chamber was being renovated, the House held session at the Old State Capitol historic site.
One of my first actions when we return to session will be to join as a co-sponsor of the Fair Business Treatment Act, which is going to be introduced to support our local small businesses. The legislation will ensure that small businesses have the same opportunities to open their doors as those which large, big-box stores currently have. Too many small business have been closed down while large stores which sell the same products have been allowed to stay open. A small local business with a few customers provides a safer environment for shopping than a large retailer with dozens of people in the store at the same time.
Many details remain to be worked out, and I am hopeful that this will be a real, substantive working session where the legislature gets back to its Constitutional role in the lawmaking process.
Some businesses still open, but still hurting
Most Illinois businesses were closed down by the stay-at-home order, but some were allowed to stay open because they offered services that were considered essential. But these businesses have been hurting too. As Ralph Denault of RTD Auto Repair in Roberts pointed out to me, if his customers aren’t working and getting paychecks, they aren’t likely to patronize his business either.
“We are disinfecting our waiting room several times a day as needed, we are using wipes to clean door handles and steering wheels in cars needing repair” he wrote a short time ago. “We are currently taking all precautions to protect our customers and employees.” Like so many other small business owners, Ralph is working to keep his employees and his customers safe, and to keep his business afloat, but he needs the stay-at-home order to be at least partially lifted in order to make it. In communities like Roberts; which already meet the Department of Public Health standards for being ready to move to the next phase of re-opening; small business owners can do so if they show the kind of commitment to safety which Ralph’s letter indicates. It is a critical time for our small businesses.
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For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: coronavirus.illinois.gov or my website at repbennett.com and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).