Sen. Barbara Anne Washington’s Legislative Column for the Week of Feb. 1, 2021

Week of February 1, 2021

The Missouri Senate experienced its first filibuster of the 2021 legislative session this week. The nonstop debate went on for 15 hours and centered on the combined Senate Bills 51 & 42. This legislation provides legal protections for businesses, health care providers, manufacturers and others relating to COVID-19. It prevents businesses from being sued if someone contracts COVID-19 on their premises, unless the business acted recklessly or engaged in willful misconduct. Likewise, health care providers such as nursing home workers are shielded from most suits stemming from COVID-19 unless the “recklessness and willful misconduct” standard is met. Certain manufacturers who worked to put out items, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), in response to the pandemic also have some legal protections under this proposal. Additionally, the legislation protects religious institutions from pandemic-related lawsuits unless intentional misconduct can be shown. The bill further stipulates a time frame for bringing these issues before a court. Under SBs 51& 42, medical malpractice suits relating to COVID-19 must be brought within one year of the alleged harm, while product liability and exposure cases must be brought within two years.

Supporters of the bill often frame the legislation as trying to protect hardworking health care workers and small businesses from frivolous lawsuits spurred on by the pandemic. While I certainly sympathize with that goal, my concern with the bill is that it may end up denying Missourians who experience real harm during the pandemic the opportunity to have their day in court. With its high thresholds for bringing a lawsuit, as well as its time restraints, this bill may make it harder for Missourians to successfully bring claims against those who jeopardize the public’s health and hold them accountable.

Senate Bills 51 & 42 was given an initial round of approval by the Missouri Senate in the early morning hours of February 3. It will take one more affirmative vote to send it to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Each week I will provide updates on COVID-19 information. Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are being provided to individuals who are eligible under the following phases of the state’s vaccine distribution plan:

  • Phase 1A – patient-facing health care workers as well as residents and staff in long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1B Tier 1 – first responders, emergency services workers and non-patient facing health care workers.
  • Phase 1B Tier 2 – high-risk individuals, such as anyone age 65 and older and adults with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, weakened immune system due to organ transplant, severe obesity (BMI >40), pregnancy, Sickle Cell Disease, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus or individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome.

If you fall into any of these categories, please contact your local pharmacy or health care provider for information on how best to receive one of the available vaccines. For more information about Missouri’s vaccine distribution plan, please visit covidvaccine.mo.gov.

Vaccinations are already underway in our community. For instance, Truman Medical Centers is currently focusing on reaching out to eligible patients to schedule vaccine appointments, starting with those who are 65 and older as doses become available. As they vaccinate these individuals and medical staff throughout the community, they are asking for the public’s continued patience. Please feel free to contact them by visiting their website or by calling (816) 404-2273.

Thank you for your vote of confidence to serve the people of the 9th District in the Missouri Senate. In an effort to keep you up-to-date with my legislation or other proposed legislation, please feel free to visit my website at senate.mo.gov/Washington. I appreciate your active interest in your community and encourage your participation in the legislative process. Should you need assistance with state matters, please feel free to contact my office (573) 751-3158.

Senator Washington’s Sponsored Legislation for 2021

Bill Number Description Status
Senate Bill 82 Authorizes a tax credit for urban farms located in a food desert Second read and referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Bill 83 Designates the third week of September as “Historically Black College and University Week” in Missouri Second read and referred to Senate Education Committee
Senate Bill 84 Authorizes a tax credit for the purchase of certain homes Second read and referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Bill 145 Creates new provisions of law relating to discriminatory practices Second read and referred to Senate Small Business and Industry Committee
Senate Bill 146 Modifies provisions relating to landlord- tenant actions Second read and referred to Senate Small Business and Industry Committee
Senate Bill 147 Modifies provisions relating to tax increment financing Second read and referred to Senate Ways and Means Committee
Senate Bill 189 Creates a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum special license plate Hearing conducted in Senate Progress and Development Committee
Senate Bill 190 Creates provisions relating to expungement for certain marijuana offenses Second read and referred to Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Senate Bill 191 Creates new provisions relating to the counting of inmates for the purpose of redistricting Second read and referred to Select Committee on Redistricting
Senate Bill 357 Modifies provisions relating to medical marijuana program participants in family court matters First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 419 Relating to use of force by law enforcement officers First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 420 Relating to reporting requirements of law enforcement agencies First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 434 Establishes the “Cronkite New Voices Act” to protect the freedom of press in school-sponsored media First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 440 Modifies provisions relating to juvenile detention First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 441 Establishes the Missouri Food Security Task Force First read in the Senate
Senate Bill 446 Modifies provisions relating to the certification of juveniles for trial as an adult First read in the Senate
Senate Joint Resolution 17 Places limits on increases of the assessment of certain properties First read in the Senate