JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Gov. Mike Parson said a new law limiting local health authorities' powers to enact orders is needed after some overstepped their bounds during the coronavirus pandemic.
Parson signed House Bill 271 during a ceremony on the North Lawn of the State Capitol on Tuesday morning. The new law will place heavy restrictions on when counties can issue a public health order and ban proof of vaccination.
The law says a political subdivision cannot put a health order in place for longer than 30 days in an 180-day period.
Watch a replay of the bill signing in the player below.
The order can be extended more than once through a majority vote of the political subdivision's governing body. The law also says a county cannot issue a public health order at any other time other than during a state of emergency.
Parson said the bill was a consequence of the actions of some local health authorities but did not single out any particular agency.
"When this pandemic occurred there was overreach … and there’s gonna be consequences to that," said of the new law. This bill provides accountability for those actions, he said.
"...We're not going to have government tell you who can be in and out of your house thats not the governments place to do that. Whether you go to church or not thats going to be up to you as individuals for freedoms that outweigh consequences many times, and I want to be clear that I have been consistent with that message throughout the pandemic," Parson said.
Most local authorities took a balanced approach to pandemic-related restrictions, Parson said, but others abused their power. Columbia and Boone County had health orders in place for more than a year. Those orders limited capacity at businesses and required masks.
Rep. Jim Murphy, a St. Louis County Republican, said, "Health departments need to protect our health and legislatures need to protect our liberties. They can't work independent of each other and there needs to be oversight," when testimony was heard in March.
On Tuesday, Murphy criticized the way St. Louis County issued and handled its health order. He made it clear that health was not the only component of the Pandemic that needed to be protected.
"Health departments, their job is to protect our health, and they do a very good job of that. But, elected officials protect our liberty. You cant have one without the other," Murphy said.
Sen. Andrew Koenig of St. Louis County was also in favor of the bill back in March saying, "Just because they're local that doesn't give them authority to do whatever they want. Local control resides with you as an individual in a free society."
The new law also prohibits local governments from requiring "vaccine passports" that show proof of vaccination to access services such as public transportation.
Cole County Health Department director Kristi Campbell said she supports the bill.
"It is a collective effort, we should not make these decisions in a vacuum, we need to work together to do whats best for our community," Campbell said.
Scott Clardy assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department said the health departments primary goal is safety of the community.
"Our primary goal is the health and safety of the community, we are always going to err on what we believe would result in the safest level of transmission in the community if any," Clardy said.
Two parts of the bill had an emergency provision putting it into effect on Tuesday: the Health Ordinance Emergency Clause and date stamps for county tax in St. Louis. The rest of the bill will take effect Aug. 28.