(The Center Square) – Democrats and Republicans will bring a mix of ideas to the newly formed Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, which will provide recommendations for reviving the state’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For months, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been using his executive authority to decide how the state’s economy should operate during the pandemic. During the truncated legislative special session last month in Springfield, lawmakers passed a bill the governor signed that creates the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, which puts a group of lawmakers together with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The commission has 14 members, eight Democrats and six Republicans split evenly from the House and Senate.
“I think the governor has made some great decisions, he’s shown extreme leadership in handling this pandemic, and now it’s time there’s a little more input into the decision making than what we’ve previously seen,” said state Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, who was appointed to the commission.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, also is on the commission. He said the governor did a good job mitigating the impact of COVID-19, but it’s time for the legislature to step in.
“The question that usually comes up is how much teeth is this commission going to have,” Crespo said. “We’ll give DCEO and the administration a subtle reminder that we control the budget.”
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, is also on the commission. He hopes the group comes to a consensus on measures to jumpstart the state’s economy.
“We see things that are happening right now, it’s actually continuing to tie the hands of jumpstarting,” Syverson said.
Crespo said the cap of 50 or fewer for conventions and events needs to be lifted. Syverson said the state’s minimum wage increase set for July 1 should be delayed. Murphy said nothing should be off the table.
State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, said he wants to get venues like the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield open to allow more spectators for things such as motorcycle races, which have big draws during the summer months.
“Twenty percent capacity is not even close to what’s needed to put on a motorcycle race outdoors with the infield, and we’ll lose that event if we don’t get some relief from the [Illinois Department of Public Health],” Caulkins told WMAY radio. “Those are the things that I’m working on outside of this commission that hasn’t even come together to meet yet.”
There are scores of other issues lawmakers need to address, including what Crespo said was a lack of transparency from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. He said even before the commission meets, he’s going to send the administration a letter about unemployment “reminding them how poorly the department is doing and we’re going to be making some recommendations as well.”
About 1.4 million Illinoisans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of March.
Syverson is said it comes down to focusing on job creation.
“It’s what can you do to get people back to work and get businesses to bring employees back and to hire people,” Syverson said.
The commission’s first report through the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is due July 1.
“The commission will at least convene but it obviously won’t have accomplished many things, will it,“ in before Wednesday’s deadline Murphy said.
After the governor signed the bill enshrining the commission earlier this month, Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch said there was no spot on the commission for the business community. He hopes it acts a precursor to better handle any future pandemic or similar type of emergency.
“I believe that we’re going to look back at what happened not only in Illinois but in multiple states and we’re going to look at what we did to the economy the same way that we look at medieval medicine now,” Maisch said.
In addition to Crespo, Murphy, Syverson and Caulkins, the commission announced by legislative leaders includes state Sens. Christopher Belt, D-Centreville, Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington and Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, along with state Reps. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, and Mike Murphy, R-Springfield.
Commission members will not receive extra compensation and the commission will be repealed on Dec. 31, 2020.