Lawmakers Tackle COVID-19 Amendments to Higher Education Bill | State News

JEFFERSON CITY – With time running out in the session, lawmakers have been hastily pushing for COVID-19-related amendments on bills to be sent to the governor.

During Monday’s session, the House debated a bill that on its face bans higher education institutions from requiring students to live on campus for more than a year.

The higher education bill, House Bill 682, sponsored by Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Phelps, now includes many amendments that lawmakers have been trying to push through regarding COVID-19 restrictions.

Various amendments to the bill would do the following:

  • Protect local businesses from criminal and civil liability for accidental exposure to COVID-19.
  • Prohibit the government from shutting down businesses or requiring individuals to quarantine without strong evidence of the presence of a contagious disease.
  • Prohibit all state departments and agencies from requiring their employees, or anyone entering their buildings, to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Limit the scope and duration of emergency health orders issued by state and local governments.

The bill passed the House on Monday with a 102 to 50 vote and is now continuing in the Senate.

The House also passed an emergency clause on House Amendment 6, sponsored by Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis.

The amendment expires emergency health ordinances issued by state and local governments after 15 days, unless the ordinances are extended by the governing body’s legislature. The aim was to limit the power of local health department officials.

In short, an emergency clause declares that all or part of a bill will come into force sooner than the default 90-day deadline after the session is passed, which is mid-August.

A lawmaker asked why an emergency clause was needed when cities and counties began to remove restrictions.

“There are still restrictions in St. Louis County on whether children should wear masks when playing sports,” Murphy replied.

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