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Illinois Lawmaker Files Lawsuit; Wants Stay-At-Home Rules Lifted

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is fighting a lawsuit challenging his right to extend the state's stay-at-home order by 30 days.
Charles Rex Arbogast
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is fighting a lawsuit challenging his right to extend the state's stay-at-home order by 30 days.

The fight over COVID-19 has become a legal battle in Illinois, pitting a Republican state lawmaker from a rural county against the Democratic governor.

Darren Bailey argued the state's latest stay-at-home order was taking an unfair economic toll on his constituents in Clay County. So he sued last week. And won. Sort of.

A Clay County circuit court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the state's extension of its stay-at-home policy.

That ruling only applies to one person, though — Bailey.

Everyone else living in Clay County, and the rest of the state, still must abide by the 30-day extension set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

"Enough is enough," Bailey said in a statement. "I filed this lawsuit on behalf of myself and my constituents who are ready to go back to work and resume a normal life."

Pritzker is appealing the judge's order.

At his daily press conference Tuesday, the governor called the lawsuit a "cheap political stunt" and the court decision "dangerous." He said it invites others to try for exemptions to an order that relies on collective action to keep people safe.

"I know the virus is causing devastating consequences, just as it has caused tens of thousands to become ill and thousands to die," Pritzker said, "and responsible people understand the consequences of opening too early."

Clay County's population is nearly 14,000, according to the 2010 Census. So far, it has only two confirmed cases of COVID-19. Bailey lives in Xenia, Ill., about 200 miles south of Chicago.

He argues the stay-at-home order is causing an economic pandemic in an area not hard-hit by the disease and that Pritzker did not have the authority to extend the order. The original deadline was April 30; it's now May 31.

Across the country, decisions about stay-at-home orders and reopening economies by governors, regardless of party, have increasingly turned into political fights. An attorney for Rep. Bailey says he has received heavy interest from others who want to take similar action against the governor.

Illinois has reported more than 48,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 2,000 deaths. Pritzker says the danger has not passed yet, and credits the stay-at-home order with flattening the curve and drastically slowing the number of cases in Illinois.

Pritzker says he's confident the ruling against him will be overturned.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.