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Parson signs legislation limiting public health orders

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill curbing the power of local officials to issue shutdown orders and other health ordinances Tuesday.  

HB 271, sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, prohibits 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. 

Parson signed the bill into law at the state Capitol Tuesday morning with Wiemann and Senate handler Sen. Sandy Crawford on hand.

“This legislation I am signing today requires local leaders to be more transparent in their reasoning and accountable for their decisions when it comes to public health orders,” Parson said. “It also prohibits local, publicly funded entities from requiring a vaccine passport in order for residents to use public services, and while we encourage all Missourians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is not the government’s job to force them.”

The bill went into effect upon his signature due to an emergency clause.

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 establishes 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. 

Parson Wiemann HB 271 signing
Rep. John Wiemann’s bill was signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson Tuesday. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

“This has been a labor of love for me for the last three years to try to get the local government transparency bill passed in Missouri,” Wiemann said. “Normally when we do omnibus bills we’re a little nervous about what’s being added on that may not necessarily be good, but we spent a solid week vetting through and I can tell you those 23 amendments are solid local government bills.”

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. 

This story has been updated. It was originally published June 14.