Feb 22, 2021 5:30 PM

COVID-19 liability protection pending in the Missouri legislature

Posted Feb 22, 2021 5:30 PM

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A state senator pushing to protect businesses reopening during the coronavirus pandemic from lawsuits is optimistic the bill will pass.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer of Parkville sponsors Senate Bill 51 which would protect businesses, schools, and churches which act in good faith from lawsuits filed by those who contract COVID-19. Luetkemeyer had to work with opponents who used a 15-hour filibuster to delay a first-round vote on the bill.

“We ended up reaching a compromise that I still think is still very protective of both our frontline health care workers as well as our small businesses, our schools, and our churches,” Luetkemeyer tells St. Joseph Post. “This is a piece of legislation that is very much needed in order to make sure that we could reopen the economy without fear of endless lawsuits shutting small businesses and schools down.”

The Senate went into a one-week recess due to the severe winter weather of last week and returns to work in Jefferson City this week.

Luetkemeyer says businesses need the protection in order to reopen their doors, which in turn reopens the economy.

“What we don’t need is we don’t need a second wave pandemic where you’ve got a situation where everybody reopens and then all of the sudden, they’re getting sued and these small businesses which are desperately clinging to stay alive get put out of business,” Luetkemeyer says. “And that’s what this is about, encouraging businesses to reopen, encouraging businesses to stay open.”

Luetkemeyer overcame that 15-hour filibuster to win preliminary approval for this measure. He faces another hurdle, though.

“The one issue that we’re kind of trying to figure out right now is, we have 24 Republicans in the Missouri Senate, we have an emergency clause that’s attached to this bill. In order to pass an emergency clause, you actually need a super majority, a two-thirds vote, which means we need 23 senators to vote in favor of the emergency clause,” Luetkemeyer says.

Luetkemeyer says the final Senate vote could be delayed until he is sure he has the votes needed. An emergency clause makes the bill effective upon the signature of the governor.

If the bill passes the Senate, it moves on to the House. Both House leadership and Gov. Mike Parson have declared the measure a top priority of this legislative session.