Missouri’s governor expanded his special session call on Thursday to include COVID-19 liability, relating to his declared state of emergency for health care providers, manufacturers, businesses, churches, schools and others.
The issue is a top priority for Missouri’s largest business organization and for GOP legislative leaders, but some labor unions and the House Democratic leader see it differently.
Governor Mike Parson (R) made his announcement at a Statehouse press conference in Jefferson City.
“None of these groups (health care providers, businesses, churches, schools) should be penalized for their efforts to respond to a declared state of emergency,” Parson tells Capitol reporters. “They must be able to continue operating and serving the public without risk of unnecessary and senseless claims.”
The governor is calling on the Legislature to approve a bill with three main components.
“Liability protection for health care workers who provide care as necessitated by a declared state of emergency,” says Parson. “Products liability protection for any person who designs, manufactures, labels, sells, distributes or donates products in direct response to a declared state of emergency.”
The third component is premises liability protection for exposure claims, relating to a declared state of emergency.
Governor Parson also wants lawmakers to approve an emergency clause.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been urging the governor to expand the special session, saying six of Missouri’s eight bordering states have approved similar legislation. Chamber President Dan Mehan tells Missourinet that more than 800 Missouri employers, mostly small businesses, signed a letter requesting a special session. That includes a skate park and a pizzeria.
Mehan describes COVID-19 liability protection as an important step towards re-opening the economy.
You can read the governor’s special session call here. House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, told Missourinet this week he expects the House to be in session in December to work on COVID liability.
The top Democratic in the Missouri House is blasting the governor’s announcement, saying it encourages reckless behavior.
“Over and over, Governor Parson has stressed the need for personal responsibility in fighting COVID-19. But for businesses that negligently put their employees and customers at risk, he doesn’t want them to have to take any responsibility at all,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, says, in a written statement. “While providing protections for businesses that follow the rules and take the necessary steps to keep people safe might be warranted, a blanket exemption that also shields bad actors from legal liability will encourage reckless behavior and make a crisis that already has spun out of control far worse.”
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is also critical. SEIU Healthcare Missouri Kansas vice president Lenny Jones says the governor’s proposal would grant immunity to operators and owners of nursing homes and medical centers, during the COVID pandemic.
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