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Politics, Elections and Government

COVID Liability Protection And Other Pandemic Measures Get Another Life In Missouri Legislature

The Missouri Capitol Building. State lawmakers have given final approval to a bill renewing federally funded jobless payments for thousands of Missourians.
The Missouri Capitol Building. State lawmakers have given final approval to a bill renewing federally funded jobless payments for thousands of Missourians.

The House passed a wide-ranging bill with amendments including limits on local government closures and regulations on how school boards hear from angry parents.

JEFFERSON CITY — A variety of legislative reactions to the coronavirus pandemic got a second life in a wide-ranging bill the Missouri House passed Monday.

Versions of the amendments that were attached to a higher education bill failed in earlier attempts this legislative session but found a vehicle to stay alive in the last two weeks before adjournment.

The provisions include giving Missouri businesses and organizations liability protection from COVID-related lawsuits, limiting local governments’ ability to shut down businesses and requiring school boards to listen to parents' concerns on decisions like mask mandates and closures.

Numerous amendments added to bills are often called “Christmas ornaments.”

“I voted for this bill in committee. It was a good bill, and then we got it here, and it’s one of our more sizable Christmas trees of the year,” said Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, before casting a no vote on the floor.

The amendment limiting local governments in closing down businesses and churches is a reaction to what some lawmakers say is an overreach on COVID-related restrictions.

Supporters say the move is still needed, even though many cities and counties are loosening restrictions.

“Right now we have a situation where venues are closed, schools are closed. There’s health regulations that are causing all kinds of depressions and so forth,” said Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis.

The bill and all of its amendments passed 104-48. It now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The legislative session ends May 14.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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