Demmer says ‘heavy-handed’ tactics aimed at silencing dissent
By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – House Republicans on Thursday accused Gov. J.B. Pritzker of revoking his own state board appointments as political retribution for votes he did not agree with.
“We came down here today because we think it's important to call attention to some seemingly heavy-handed tactics that the administration has taken recently regarding some dissent,” Republican Rep. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, said.
Demmer and Rep. Norine Hammond, a Macomb Republican, raised these concerns at an Illinois State Capitol news conference, specifically noting a pair of Pritzker actions regarding the Teachers’ Retirement System board and the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.
Pritzker withdrew his own appointments of Julie Hamos and Michael Gelder from the state health facilities review board less than a week after the board voted unanimously to allow the owners of Westlake Hospital to close the Melrose Park facility.
Pritzker’s office said in a statement the decision was made “in order to appoint members who more closely share the governor’s vision for hospitals around the state.”
In March, the Teachers’ Retirement System board opposed Pritzker’s pension plan to diminish statutorily-mandated payments – a plan the governor has since scrapped.
A month later, two holdovers from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration were removed from the board.
“We can’t have these boards fearing their decisions must first be vetted by the governor,” Hammond said.
Hammond said there are 14 days left on the legislative calendar and more than 150 gubernatorial appointments awaiting Senate approval.
“That means that these individuals face possibly months and months where they are not yet confirmed, and they have important decisions to make,” Hammond said. “They should not have to worry that they will be removed because they make decisions that are counter to the governor's wishes, but in the best interest of the board on which they serve.”
In response to questions about the Republicans’ claims, Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said, “The governor has appointed and will continue to appoint highly qualified people who share his vision to serve on boards and commissions across the state.”