One thing the coronavirus has done in downstate Illinois is fan the flames of secession. On Wednesday, the Shelby County Board will not only discuss re-opening the county, but putting a resolution on the ballot to form a new state.

Various issues in the past have highlighted the differences between Chicago and downstate Illinois. “New Illinois” committees, in favor of creating a separate state from Chicago, have been formed in 49 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Now with Governor JB Pritzker handing down statewide COVID-19 emergency orders for what is a diverse state, people are calling, not just for more regional representation, but more loudly for complete secession.

For a few months the topic of creating a new state, separate from the Chicago Area, has been brought up at the Shelby County Board meetings. It finally made it on the agenda for this week’s May meeting.

Item 5 at Wednesday’s board meeting will be a “non-binding public question” on the formation of a new state on the ballot for the November 3, 2020 General Election.

Jeremy Williams has been circulating petitions to get the question on the ballot. He addressed the Shelby County Board meetings regularly, starting in January. His requests to have the county board address the issue have finally paid off. It is on the board agenda for May.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, filed a resolution in February appealing to the United States Congress to separate Chicago from Illinois and making it a new state.

The resolution was co-sponsored by State Reps. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, and Chris Miller, R-Robinson.

“The purpose of this resolution is to show the disconnect between the northeast corner of the state and downstate Illinois. They make financial decisions and policies that don’t follow what the rest of the state wants,” Halbrook said.

The handling of the COVID-19 crisis, especially the shuttering of businesses and churches, has created more discontent with Springfield, which some see as the state being driven by Chicago.

Item number 9 on the board agenda for Wednesday is a Shelby County return to work resolution offered by County Board Member Bryon Coffman.

Bailey sued Pritzker over his “stay-at-home” order. Bailey and other downstate legislators have called for a more regional approach to handling the crisis.

A church in Lena sued the state for prohibiting the free exercise of their faith. Some churches have defied the governor’s order and held in-person worship services for more than 10 people.

The Clark County Board voted, 6-1, on Friday, May 8, to re-open businesses and allow people to return to work. They issued their own guidelines, replacing the governor’s 5-part plan.

In Moultrie County, State’s Attorney Tracy Weaver issued a statement saying her office will not prosecute any business or church that plans to open up in violation of the state executive order. Weaver said that she has discretion on which cases to prosecute. She took an oath to uphold the constitution and the people have a right to assemble, she said.

The New Illinois website addresses their mission.

“New Illinois is a nonprofit organization that educates Illinois citizens about their right to pursue the creation of a new state from the State of Illinois. We are seeking a state split, following the process provided in the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Sec. 3).

“We are addressing a longstanding divide in the State of Illinois. This divide is not between Democrats and Republicans—it is urban vs. rural, small town and suburban. We are two very different places, both culturally and economically. Legislation and policies addressing the needs and best interests of a major urban area like Chicago/Cook County are not necessarily in the best interests of the rest of the state.”

The Shelby County Board will meet outside, once again. The meeting will be Wednesday, May 13, at 9 a.m. at the 9th Street Pavilion located north of 9th St. Beach and southwest of the boat launch on Lake Shelbyville.

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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