FILE -  Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces a new round of COVID-19-related emergency housing assistance, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at Abundant Faith Christian Center in Springfield, Ill.

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act he said will allow for COVID-19 mandates to be enforced at the workplace.

Late Monday, Pritzker's office announced he signed the House Amendment to Senate Bill 1169, “clarifying that it is not a violation of the Act to take workplaces measures intended to prevent the spread of deadly, communicable diseases like COVID-19.”

But as the measure was working through the legislature during the fall veto session last month, it drew historic levels of citizens filing witness slips in committee hearings opposing the change.

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police was among the first to raise concerns about the changes. President Chris Southwood Tuesday said now it's signed, they’re getting the word out.

“Freedom-loving citizens all across the state have been stripped of their basic right to conscientious choice and can now be discriminated against because of their conscientious refusal to have COVID vaccines forced on them,” Southwood told WMAY.

Pritzker said the measure was necessary to clarify the HCRCA and to prevent it from being abused by people not wanting to comply.

“Masks, vaccines, and testing requirements are life-saving measures that keep our workplaces and communities safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Keeping workplaces safe is a high priority, and I applaud the General Assembly for ensuring that the Health Care Right of Conscience Act is no longer wrongly used against institutions who are putting safety and science first.”

Calling Pritzker a “dictator,” Southwood said there will be political consequences for those that supported the change.

“And I think that those people have now certainly in our opinion have lost the right to represent freedom loving citizens all across this state and we’re going to make sure their constituents know about it as these elections come closer and closer,” Southwood said.

To the governor and Democrats that talk about supporting labor, Southwood said they’re being hypocrites if they supported changes to the HCRCA.

“Let’s be crystal clear, the governor and his Democrat cronies that say they support labor, sure they do, as long as the labor agenda supports the agenda of the governor and these other Democrat cronies,” Southwood said.

Not all Democrats voted for the measure. State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, didn’t support the change, saying there are opportunities to get employees and employers to sit down and work toward getting on the same page.

“And perhaps this wasn’t the right way to do it at this point in time,” Turner said.

Eleven Democrats voted against the measure, six Senators and five Representatives. Nine other Democrats from both chambers either didn’t cast a vote or voted present.

No Republicans supported the bill.

The next election for governor and statehouse seats is in November 2022.

The changes to the HCRCA don’t take effect until June 1, 2022.