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House Rep. Ejected For Face Mask Rule-Breaking, State Lawmakers Greeted By Protests

A lawmaker who portrays himself as an outsider found himself on the outside Tuesday. A group of protestors, meanwhile, made their voices heard as state lawmakers convened for the first day of a special legislative session.

In its first major move of the day, Illinois House members voted to remove a southeastern Illinois Republican from the floor for failing to wear a face covering over his mouth and nose. Moments before, that chamber voted to require face coverings and other public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Democratic Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (Chicago) made a motion to remove Republican Rep. Darren Bailey (Clay County) from the House proceedings after Bailey responded “I will not,” when he was asked to come into compliance with the face covering requirement.

The House voted  81-27 to remove Bailey from the chambers, after which he was then escorted out of the Bank of Springfield Center by security.

“[If] you want to send me or anyone else outside the doors today, I understand. Go right ahead,” the Republican said before the vote took place. “But know this: if you do that you’re silencing millions of voices of people who have had enough."

Bailey has led the opposition to Gov. J.B Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. He was among the first to file suit against the Governor on the grounds that order and other executive action exceeded Pritzker’s authority.  That case is expected to be heard in a Clay County Circuit court Friday.

The move to eject the Republican from the House Tuesday drew bipartisan support. Democrat Mike Zalewski (Riverside) asked Bailey to consider others.

“If you’re not going to do it of your own personal volition, please do it for the staff that worked incredibly hard to stand up a temporary House chamber for three straight days,” he said.

Republican Dan Brady of Bloomington was among the several GOP members to support Bailey’s removal.

“I don’t think the people that sent us here to represent them today intended for us to focus our time on a mask showdown of whether you’re wearing it or you’re not,” said Brady.

Rep. Dan Caulkins (R, Decatur) defended that “showdown” in his own speech on the House floor.

“If someone chooses to exercise their right, I don’t think that we should take punitive action. I think this is a mistake,” Caulkins told the chamber.

During a daily press briefing, Gov. Pritzker had harsh words for Bailey.

"Clearly the representative has no interest in protecting others," he said.

As lawmakers were gathering to meet Tuesday, several hundred gathered just before state lawmakers convened Tuesday. The group of several hundred began a 10 block march from the Bank of Springfield (BoS) Center, where the House is meeting this week to the State Capitol where the Senate is conducting business.

“It’s time to open Illinois,” Bailey told reporters prior to entering the BoS Center. “Everyone in this state...their voices are unheard and that’s got to end," he said prior to demonstrators kicking off their march.

The protestors marched and drove that distance with a police escort.  The loudest chants were to “Open Illinois." An occasional bullhorn amplified that sentiment.

It’s unclear when or if Bailey will return to the chamber. The General Assembly will meet in separate locations in Springfield for the next several days.

Bill is a former general manager, economy reporter, Harvest correspondent and Statehouse Bureau Chief for NPR Illinois. He has won several awards including the Associated Press Best Investigative Reporter.
Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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