A bill curbing the power of local officials to issue shutdown orders and other health ordinances is scheduled to be signed into law this week.
HB 271, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, would prohibit local officials from issuing public health orders or restrictions leading to the closure of schools, businesses, or places of worship beyond 30 days during a six-month period amid a state of emergency. Those orders could be extended by a majority vote of the local governing body. Outside of an emergency, the limit would be set at 21 days.
Gov. Mike Parson is scheduled to sign the bill into law Tuesday morning at the Capitol. An emergency clause was adopted by the legislature, putting the bill into effect upon his signature.
Wiemann could not immediately be reached for comment.
The issue of shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic was a hot topic in the statehouse this session: A similar attempt — aimed at St. Louis County’s handling of the situation — failed to move forward in the upper chamber, with nine GOP members joining forces with the other side of the aisle to reject the measure on a perfection vote.
The final version of Wiemann’s bill was approved by both chambers the final week of session after conference negotiations whittled down the bevy of Senate amendments that swelled the bill to more than 100 pages. The final version passed overwhelmingly in both bodies.
The underlying bill would establish the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database to track local expenditures and vendors doing business with communities. The database would be voluntary, but citizens could vote to require a county or city to participate. Wiemann championed the same measure last year, but it failed to progress to a hearing in the Senate. The database garnered bipartisan support on the House floor this year before the other provisions were added.
“For those who were in this chamber last year, we passed this bill out of the chamber,” Wiemann said at the time. “It’s virtually the same bill dealing with local government municipal transparency.”
It grew to include a myriad of provisions related to local governments as it progressed through the legislature, including regulations on county commissioners, county clerks, utilities, and circuit courts. Another section restricts communities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination passports for publicly funded transportation, a provision that was attached to other bills as well.
Wiemann’s bill is the latest piece of legislation to be signed into law this month; Parson signed several bills last week, establishing a statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), outlining who could inspect agricultural facilities, and affirming the state’s financial commitment to a water project in the north. The Second Amendment Preservation Act was signed Saturday, allowing state gun laws to supersede federal regulations.