I believe we all felt a collective sigh of relief in our neighborhoods this week as Missouri slowly started to re-open following the end of local stay-at-home orders throughout the state. It was great to see lines of eager customers forming outside of businesses whose doors had been closed due to the pandemic. As we continue to recover from the coronavirus, I am happy to see parts of our daily lives slowly return to normal.
From my perspective, a collective sense of urgency could be felt in the Capitol’s offices, committee rooms and chambers this week as legislators scrambled to accomplish their legislative goals during the final days of the 2020 legislative session. The past week featured numerous conference committee reports, compromises and last-minute amendments as my colleagues and I continued to discuss and debate proposals with the hopes of getting them across the finish line and to the governor’s desk.
Punitive Damages Bill Wins the Race against the Clock
Each December, senators pre-file several hundred bills with the hope of seeing the words “Truly Agreed and Finally Passed” next to their legislation before the end of the legislative session; however, only a small percentage of these will make it all the way through the legislative process. Senate Bill 591 was the first bill I pre-filed this session, and it was my first bill this year to make it to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. As an attorney, I am aware of how meritless punitive damages claims were being misused in our legal system, and it has been a priority of mine for several years to set the record straight and reform our state’s civil justice system.
In addition, I offered a tort reform amendment on House Bill 1682. The amendment protects health care workers from being held liable for civil damages for care associated with the COVID-19 virus. This legal protection would only apply as long as the governor’s state of emergency declaration regarding the virus is in effect. From my perspective, our health care providers have enough to worry about as they navigate the daily uncertainties of the virus without the added threat of a lawsuit hanging over them. After several hours of debate, I withdrew the amendment to allow the underlying bill to continue. Due to the important nature of this amendment, I plan on offering it to a different bill prior to the end of session.
As the days and hours continued to inch closer to the end of the legislative session, I am proud to report that I was able to add some of the provisions of my Senate Bill 826 to House Bill 1414. The provisions added to HB 1414 aim to assist homeless or unaccompanied children access their vital records without the consent or signature of an adult or having to pay a fee.
SJR 38 Advances to November Ballot
Several other pieces of legislation earned the “Truly Agreed and Finally Passed” stamp during the countdown to the final day of the legislative session. Senate Joint Resolution 38 was passed by both chambers, and will now head to the voters for their consideration. Sometimes referred to as “Cleaner Missouri”, this constitutional amendment, if passed, will attempt to limit the influence of special interests by banning lobbyist gifts and decreasing campaign contribution limits, as well as return the state’s legislative redistricting process into the hands of an independent, bipartisan, citizen-led commission.
Flyover Friday Honors Essential and Health Care Workers
On Friday, May 8, residents in Joplin may have seen, heard or even felt the B-2 Stealth Bomber that participated in a “fly over” to honor the medical and health care professionals, essential workers and volunteers who are risking their own safety as they battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. I was able to slightly alter the southeast to northwest flight route by making a phone call to Col. Kenneth Eaves, commander of the Missouri Air National Guard, and requesting that the two large hospitals in Joplin be included in this salute. The other cities included in the Friday “fly over” were Camdenton, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Jefferson City, Springfield and St. Louis. I believe this grand gesture celebrates the small sacrifices being made every day to secure the health and safety of our community.
Thank an Officer during National Police Week!
Monday marked the beginning of a national weeklong observance honoring law enforcement. The week culminates on May 15, a day that President Kennedy proclaimed as National Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962. Most of this year’s festivities have had to be canceled due to the coronavirus, but I encourage you to vocalize your support for the sacrifices and courageous acts these heroes endure to safeguard our communities.
Missouri General Assembly to Document the COVID-19 Pandemic
In my opinion, some of us will probably want to forget about the spring of COVID-19, but all of us are living this history in the making. As Missouri’s legislative hub of representation and historical preservation, the Legislative Library is collecting stories and digital evidence to document the pandemic-related impact and experiences of legislators and constituents. Simply complete this short form and email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org to possibly be included in the volume and shared with future generations.