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State Legislative Panel Throws Wrench In Gov. JB Pritzker's Rules For School Mask Mandate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker's school mask mandate ran into another roadblock on Tuesday, when a legislative panel voted down his bid to reintroduce emergency rules that expired two days earlier.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a bipartisan oversight panel in charge of reviewing rules created by state agencies, voted 9-0 to reject the Illinois Department of Public Health's effort to ensure school districts that aren't defendants in an ongoing lawsuit over the school mask mandate continue to enforce mask requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions.

Three Democrats on the committee joined six Republicans in voting down the rules, with two other Democrats voting present, and one other Democrat absent from the meeting.

The vote inspired some school boards, like Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and Maine Township High School District 270, to move to mask optional rules.

Republican lawmakers, who have routinely criticized Pritzker for taking a unilateral approach to imposing COVID-19 mitigations throughout the pandemic, declared the JCAR's vote a victory.

"That's great news for you, and your ability to manage your children and manage your families in the way that you want, and for local control," said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods.

Democrats who voted against the governor's latest school mask rule cited a downstate judge's ruling earlier this month issuing a temporary restraining order blocking the state from enforcing Pritzker's school mask mandate at more than 140 school districts. They said they want to wait to see how the state's appeal of that ruling turns out.

"We have an active court case on this matter, the outcome of which should provide clarity for what next steps are needed. Acting now would be premature given that pending ruling and also given the fact that the previous rule amounted to guidance without any real enforcement," State Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Democrat from Chicago, said in a statement.

The appeals court panel now hearing the school mask mandate case has asked Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is representing the governor, to explain how JCAR's vote would affect the state's appeal of the temporary restraining order.

CBS 2 has reached out to Pritzker's office about what his next steps will be, but we have not yet heard back.

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