Pritzker Hopes General Assembly Will Close HCRCA Loophole on Covid Vaccines

By Benjamin Cox on October 18, 2021 at 8:58am

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is hoping the General Assembly will close a loophole in state law aimed at his school employee vaccine executive order.

Illinois school staff is required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested for the virus each week.

Several school districts are being sued by staff saying that the mandate violates the 1998 Health Care Right of Conscience Act, or the HCRCA. The law prohibits all forms of discrimination for anyone refusing to act contrary to their conscience or conscientious convictions in engaging in medical care.

Jacksonville School District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek raised questions to the Illinois State Board of Education about enforcement of the order last month. Ptacek believes that through the enforcement the state’s school districts will end up being sued and ultimately bankrupt school finances due to numerous legal challenges. Ptacek has yet to receive a response from ISBE or the Governor’s Office.

On What’s On Your Mind on Friday, State Senator Steve McClure he doesn’t support amending the law during the shortened veto session: “First of all, the vaccines should be a local decision, so local school boards, businesses – that should all be done at the local level. I am not a fan of the state, the governor, or whomever else mandating everyone do this or everyone do that. To me, the locals should make the decision. If the governor makes the decision, a parent really can’t go talk to the governor, but if it’s the local school board the decision, these parents can go meet with the school board and students can testify at these meetings, teachers, and parents. That’s why these decisions are best left up to the locals to do. I don’t agree with trying to change any laws, particularly when you’ve got religious exemptions available for people that have genuine, sincerely held, religious beliefs as to why they don’t want particular medical treatments. I think to not protect religious freedoms in this country by drastically changing this law in a very shortened veto session where you don’t really have time to discuss it properly, I think that’s the wrong thing to do. I’m against doing that.”

Ptacek told WICS Newschannel 20 last week that he hopes that there is clarification on the mandate sooner rather than waiting on a Spring General Assembly session discussion and vote. The General Assembly returns to Springfield today.