The 2021 Legislative Session ended at 6 p.m. this past Friday, May 14. I am so honored that another bill I sponsored was truly agreed and finally passed and is now headed to the Governor’s desk. This bill, HB 432, includes several provisions to help vulnerable persons in our State. One of the provisions in HB 432 allows for sheltered workshops to pay wages lower than the state minimum wage. This provision will enable sheltered workshops to stay open and continue to offer meaningful employment opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Please continue reading to learn about other legislation that was truly agreed and finally passed during the final week of Session!
Lawmakers Wrap Up Successful Legislative Session
The 2021 Legislative Session began in January with the House Speaker calling on his colleagues to “take on even the toughest challenges” and “make the hard decisions that will improve the quality of life for Missourians of all ages.” As the legislative session came to an end, the members of the Missouri House had approved numerous bills meant to help Missourians from all walks of life in all parts of the state.
In total, the General Assembly approved more than 65 bills and sent them to the governor for his approval. Legislators addressed issues such as support for foster children, protections for victims of domestic abuse, new educational opportunities for young people, safeguards for Missourians’ Second Amendment rights, prohibitions against government overreach, and tax relief for Missouri families.
The General Assembly officially adjourned at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 14, which concluded the portion of the legislative session when bills can be passed. The governor will now have the opportunity to act on the various bills sent to him. He has the option to sign bills into law or veto legislation he finds problematic. The legislature will return in September for an annual Veto
Session in which members could potentially override any vetoes made by the governor.
COVID-19 Liability Bill Headed to Governor’s Desk
On Friday before Session ended, the House truly agreed and finally passed SB 51 & 42, which includes provisions to protect small businesses, frontline health care workers, schools, and churches from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law.
I understand there are concerns about the effects of this legislation. In an effort to respond to those concerns, I want to provide you with more information about the primary objectives and key components of COVID-19 liability protections.
The primary objectives of COVID-19 liability protections are as follows:
• Protect healthcare entities from unreasonable liability in their provision of medical care during the pandemic;
• Protect businesses, churches, schools, and other entities from exposure liability on their premises; and
• Protect manufacturers and their goods from product and supply liability.
The legislation also includes protections for the groups mentioned above by clarifying what conditions must be proven by plaintiffs in order to be held liable for COVID-19 injury.
Under the legislation, if someone is trying to hold a healthcare entity responsible for COVID-19 injury, then:
• The plaintiff must prove the alleged harm, damage, breach, or tort resulting in personal injury by COVID-19 was caused by recklessness or willful misconduct by the healthcare provider. An elective procedure that is delayed for good cause shall not be considered recklessness or willful misconduct.
• The plaintiff must also have needed to discover the COVID-19 injury within a year (current medical malpractice allows for discovery to be made within two years).
If someone is trying to hold a business, school, or another entity responsible for exposure liability on their premise, then:
• The plaintiff must have clear and convincing evidence that the business, school, or other entity engaged in reckless or willful misconduct, which caused the COVID-19 injury to the plaintiff.
If someone is trying to hold a church responsible for exposure liability on their premise, then:
• The plaintiff must prove that the church engaged in intentional misconduct (intentional is the highest civil standard of culpability).
• Churches are not required to provide written notice or warning for possible COVID-19 exposure.
Lastly, if someone is trying to hold a manufacturer and their products liable for COVID-19 injury, then:
• The plaintiff must prove the alleged harm, damage, breach, or tort resulting in COVID-19 personal injury was caused by, arose out of, and was related to the design, manufacture, importation, distribution, labeling, packaging, lease, sale or donation of a covered product by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was reckless or showed willful misconduct with relation to the covered product.
• A covered product is a product, drug, biological product, device, or an individual component thereof related to COVID-19, but a vaccine is specifically excluded.
As I mentioned earlier, I understand there are concerns about the effects of this legislation. I hope this additional information helps to answer any concerns you may have. I do believe COVID-19 liability protections are necessary to protect and support our businesses and churches.
Other Priority Bills Passed this Session:
Protecting Missourians’ Second Amendment Rights (HBs 85 & 310)
• HBs 85 & 310 will protect the Second Amendment rights of Missourians against an overreaching federal government. The Second Amendment Preservation Act is meant to protect law-abiding gun owners from potential gun control legislation that could be passed in Washington, D.C. It states that laws and other actions that prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition within Missouri exceed the powers granted to the federal government. It also declares that all federal laws, acts, and orders that infringe on Missourians’ second amendment rights are invalid in the state.
Prohibiting Vaccine Passports (HB 271)
• HB 271 will ensure Missourians do not have to show proof of vaccination in order to access public transportation or other public services. The bill will ban so-called “vaccine passports.” It ensures that no county, city, town, or village receiving public funds can require an individual to provide documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to access a public transportation system, services, or any other public accommodations.
Protecting Missouri Farms from Unauthorized Inspections (HB 574)
• HB 574 is meant to protect agricultural producers from animal rights activists who may seek access to their facilities under false pretenses, and is also designed to limit the spread of disease by ensuring only qualified inspectors are allowed into the facilities. The bill specifies the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, the county sheriff and any other federal or Missouri state agency with statutory or regulatory authority have exclusive authority to inspect the grounds or facilities in Missouri. Facilities include those used for the production of eggs, milk or other dairy products, or raising of livestock.
Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse (SB 71 and SBs 53 & 60)
• SB 71 will allow victims of domestic abuse to obtain lifetime orders of protection against their abusers. Under current law, a court can issue an order of protection for up to one year. SB 71 will allow courts to issue protection orders for any length of time the judge feels is appropriate, up to and including a lifetime. The change is meant to spare victims from the trauma of having to revisit their abuse in court each year to extend an order of protection. The bill also adds protections against electronic stalking.
Protecting Children from Abuse (HBs 557 & 560)
• HB 557 creates stronger protections for young people in unlicensed, faith-based reform schools. The bill was prompted by news articles detailing the mental, physical, and sexual abuse suffered by children in some of these schools. The bill aims to protect children by requiring all such facilities to notify the Department of Social Services of their existence, and requiring background checks for employees and volunteers. Additionally, it requires the schools to comply with health and safety standards, gives parents full access to see their children, and provides a method for children to be removed when abuse or neglect is suspected.