Sen. President Don Harmon

SPRINGFIELD — As cases of COVID-19 surge at record high rates, the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session has been cancelled to keep legislators, staff and the community safe and healthy.

“The front page in the Nov. 10 Springfield paper warns of a COVID ‘tsunami’ sweeping the region and its health care system. This is not the time to physically bring together hundreds of people from all around the state,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “Given what’s happening, it was an obvious decision. It’s not safe or responsible to have a legislative session under these circumstances.”

The Springfield area’s rolling average positivity rate for confirmed COVID infections had skyrocketed to 14.4% in the days leading up to the decision, prompting concerns about hospital capacity in the capital city, which is the medical provider for its region. As of Thursday, that rate grew to 16.4%.

The veto session was scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3 to bracket the Thanksgiving holiday. The fall dates are typically scheduled for lawmakers to take up any vetoes made by the governor. However, there were no vetoes this year. Rather, the legislature planned to use the additional session days to pass a comprehensive package to combat systemic racism.

Despite the recent cancellation, members of the General Assembly still plan to meet again before the 102nd General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13 to discuss those measures, should it be safe.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, leads that effort. She said legislation will be ready when it is safe to return.

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and COVID-19 cases are surging across the state, making the risk too high for the General Assembly to gather at this time,” said Lightford (D-Chicago). “While we will not be able to pass legislation as soon as we hoped, the urgency to bring an end to systemic racism remains.”