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Governor signs emergency powers bill

Gov. Parson bill singing
Governor Mike Parson signs HB 271 into law on June 15 as State Senator Sandy Crawford (R-District 28) looks on. (Source: Governor’s Office)

Gov. Mike Parson signed new legislation into law that will restrict the authority of local officials in future emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. Parson noted the new law “establishes greater accountability for local leaders” who issue health mandates and other restrictions. 

“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.” 

House Bill 271 was one of several pieces of legislation offered by different Republican lawmakers in response to sweeping health mandates issues by local officials throughout the state. 

Under the new law, local governments may only issue public health orders that directly or indirectly restrict access to businesses, churches, schools or other places of assembly for 30 calendar days in a 180-day period when the governor has declared a state of emergency. Orders may be extended more than once with a simple majority vote by the local governing body.

If the governor has not declared a state of emergency, the powers of local officials would be even more limited. Under that scenario, local officials may only issue orders that limit access to businesses, churches, schools or other places of assembly for 21 calendar days in a 180-day period. These orders may be extended more than once but would require a two-thirds majority of the local governing body. 

The new law also prohibits the use of so-called “COVID-19 vaccine passports” that could be used by local officials to restrict access by non-vaccinated citizens to public transportation and other public services. 

The law went into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

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