An Open Letter to the 37th District: Temper Expectations as General Assembly Reconvenes Amid Pandemic

The following is an open letter to residents of the 37th District from State Representative Margo McDermed:

The phone and email and contact button on my website have been blowing up with all your pleas for the state to reopen.  I hear you.  I want to let you know what I have been doing and what I think about our current situation.

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING

I have been at home 9 plus weeks, since March 14 (even before the Governor’s Executive Order).  I did that because I’m 68 years old and my son, pregnant daughter-in-law and 3-year-old granddaughter came to stay so that my husband and I could help with child care.

We have been fortunate enough not to have been compromised by COVID-19 either medically or financially, but I know that is not the case with so many of you.

I have done my best to stay in touch with district residents by electronic means and my office has continued to offer constituent services to those of you who reached out by phone or email.

Legislatively, under the “leadership” of Speaker Madigan, the Illinois House has over the past two months been relegated to the sidelines. Recently, a few bipartisan working groups were formed, but we have had informal meetings of no actual legislative significance.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin created an internal Economic Recovery Working Group to help plan for Illinois’ future beyond the pandemic. I served on this group and together we outlined 10 actions that should be taken by the General Assembly in the near-term to help restart our economy, protect residents, and lay the groundwork for an effective government in the coming months of uncertainty.

After talking it over via televisit with my doctor, I have decided to attend the special session of the Illinois House in Springfield starting on the 20th even though I am in my late 60’s and therefore vulnerable to COVID-19. There will be temperature checks, widely spread work tables and many other safety precautions for us representatives so my doctor told me I could risk it.

WHAT I’M THINKING

My analysis is that our governor is not actually governing at all but has turned over decision making about our state to scientists.  Yes, we must be guided by science and safety but our jobs as elected officials is to balance science with every other aspect of life.  By hiding behind science, the governor can take the easy way out and avoid tough decisions. Naturally if the only basis for decisions is science and safety every problem is one-dimensional. If you’re a hammer every problem is a nail. Life isn’t like that. It’s multi-dimensional. This virus is going to be with us always so we have to learn to adapt and live with it in our midst. The 28 days we have between phases is found in no other states’ plan. Let’s figure out a way to shield older people, people with pre-existing health conditions and allow others with less vulnerability move into a more open life. Instead of locking everyone down it’s time to be more surgical and fine tune our approach. What is needed to protect a high density area like Chicago has no relevance to the rest of agricultural Illinois.

TEMPERING EXPECTATIONS

The Illinois House will convene in Special Session staring Wednesday.  Like other Republicans I have joined in repeated demands that the legislative branch participate in decision making regarding Illinois’ response to COVID.  The General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government and we 118 members of the Illinois House actually represent every part of our diverse state. We should have input into pandemic response. As it stands now Governor Pritzker intends to operate unilaterally under Executive Orders until such time as all parts of the state complete Phase 5. That could be a year or more from now. There isn’t any part of Illinois law or its constitution that ever contemplated long term, one-man rule like this.

However, now that the House is going back to work, I want to manage expectations.  Unfortunately, I expect the Democrat majority of the Illinois House solely to pass bills;

  • Ratifying the governor’s phased plan in its entirety as it currently stands;
  • Clarifying the law respecting executive orders so they can continue indefinitely and;
  • Passing a budget granting unheard of spending discretion to the governor for the period ending June 30, 2021.

You know I will continue to speak as long and as loudly as I can for you, as will my fellow Republicans.  However, we are in the super-minority and Speaker Madigan can pass any bill he and Governor Pritzker choose without even one Republican vote. Unfortunately, the Democrats who run Illinois have the votes to continue the status quo if they want to.

We all need to stand together and pressure legislators aligned with the Governor, urging them to work with us to force changes to the Governor’s policies. You can start by calling or e-mailing Senator Michael Hastings at (815) 464-5431 or outreach@senatorhastings.com.