Tuesday, August 11, the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted to uphold Governor JB Pritzker’s emergency administrative rule allowing businesses to be penalized with a Class A Misdemeanor for violations of his statewide mask order. JCAR is made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate. The group is charged with providing final approval and oversight of the administrative rule making.
The emergency rule allows health departments, law enforcement and public officials to impose a fine on any business found not to be in compliance with the statewide mask order. The fine would only be imposed on the business, not on individuals. The penalty for a Class A Misdemeanor is a fine ranging from $75-$2,500 and up to one year in jail. Since the rule only applies to businesses the jail time is theoretically null because only individuals can be placed in jail, not businesses. This creates an unusual jeopardy for business who could be fined solely for the actions of their customers.
Under the order a government official will warn a business of a violation and give them an opportunity to come into compliance. If needed they will issue a second warning which comes with the authority to remove individuals from the premises. Lastly, if the first two warnings fail to bring about the desired results the business could be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and fined up to $2,500.
The Governor introduced a similar administrative rule in May but quickly pulled it back because of opposition from JCAR. That version of the rule imposed the penalties on individuals as well. The General Assembly could have taken up the question of imposing fines during the spring legislative session but failed to do so when consensus could not be reached.
At today’s hearing, Ann Spillane, General Counsel Office of the Governor testified that the administration’s intent is that businesses aren’t expected to achieve 100% compliance but the are expected to take reasonable efforts to comply with the order. Businesses can’t control the action of their customers but they can control their own reasonable efforts. She also noted that if an individual claims a medical inability of tolerating a mask, that should be the end of the inquiry. No further proof is necessary for compliance with the order.
CBAI joined with other leading business associations including the Illinois Retail Merchant’s Association and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association in opposition to the rule. We take no formal position on whether individuals should or should not be required to wear masks in banks during the COVID crisis. Our position is that legitimate safety and identification concerns exist in banks and should be accounted for in the emergency rule. Community bankers should be allowed to design policies that best reflect the unique concerns of their bank, neighborhood and community. This is a position we have communicated consistently to the Governor, IDFPR and General Assembly since before the mask order went into effect in April.
Because this is an emergency rule it is immediately in effect.