COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
After the Missouri Senate rejected a similar proposal last week, a Senate committee heard the testimony on a bill to limit the authority of local health departments in issuing emergency orders Wednesday.
The bill in committee Wednesday -- House Bill 75 -- would limit local public health departments to ordering closures for only 15 days before needing to get a two-thirds majority approval from local elected officials. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Justin Murphy, a St. Louis County Republican. The House approved it earlier this month.
Murphy 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."
The order closure could be extended in 10 day periods after a two-thirds vote up to three times.
Senator Andrew Koenig of St. Louis County is in favor of the bill. "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," said Koenig.
Senator Bill White of District 32 showed concern over the issue being primarily in St. Louis County.
"Our public health officials did not have these kinds of problems. My concern with your bill is that you would be forcing my commissioners to go up every 10 days for reevaluation," said White.
The hearing before the Senate Health and Pensions Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, started at 1 p.m. in the Senate Lounge.
Columbia and Boone County are among the few areas of the state that continue to have coronavirus health orders in place. Those orders require masks and social distancing in public spaces and require businesses and organizations to file plans with the health department for events with attendance over 250.
The local health orders were the subject of a lawsuit filed last spring that was later dropped.
Gov. Mike Parson has left mask mandates and business restrictions up to authorities at the city and county levels throughout the pandemic.
From here, the committee will meet separately and decide if the bill will be presented on the senate floor.