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Lawmakers ‘moving forward with’ addressing COVID liability in extraordinary session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After meeting with Senate and House leadership this week, Gov. Mike Parson said lawmakers will be “moving forward with” expanding the extraordinary session to address COVID liability issues. 

“We want to make sure we give relief to the hospitals, the schools, the business people that’s been out there trying to help everybody all through the COVID [pandemic],” Parson told The Missouri Times in an interview. “We don’t want to subject them to lawsuits who are just trying to save people’s lives. We’re going to try to put something in place to protect them.” 

Lawmakers are already back in the Capitol to address the supplemental budget allocating federal CARES Act funding. The House approved the package Tuesday, and the upper chamber is expected to take it up later this month. 

Parson said the plan would be to expand the ongoing session to include COVID liability issues as opposed to calling a different one — which would be the third this year. 

Last week, House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo implored the governor to expand the session. 

“The cost of this pandemic has been dire not only in the lives that have been lost but also with the massive disruption we have seen for Missourians and Missouri businesses in all parts of the state,” Vescovo said. “If we are to give our state the best chance to recover from this ongoing pandemic, it’s imperative that we take on these issues sooner rather than later.” 

Parson said there are still a few details to work out but an official announcement about the expansion should be coming in the “next couple of days.” He previously told reporters he was open to a COVID liability plan that wouldn’t take several months for lawmakers to approve. 

Aside from Vescovo, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and GOP Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin have also backed addressing COVID liability issues. The chamber a “temporary, limited immunity from liability should be available if businesses follow government guidance on public health measures.” 

“Our health departments and schools need this shield from trial lawyers so we can stop quarantining healthy people, reopen our schools, and reignite our economy,” O’Laughlin said. “I know the county health departments and schools in my corner of the state have been begging for COVID liability protections. I want to thank Gov. Parson for his continued balanced approach to dealing with the pandemic. This relief can’t come soon enough.”

The House passed the $1.2 billion supplemental budget package in a 133-4 vote Tuesday afternoon.