Nearing the end of the regular legislative session, lawmakers in Jefferson City supported a variety of COVID-19 liability provisions Wednesday, many of which had previously been brought to the House and Senate floors.
All the provisions fell under House Bill 682, which is not connected to the pandemic but prohibits higher education institutions from requiring students to live on campus for more than one year. The overarching bill was sponsored by Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville.
The COVID-19-related amendments to the bill would:
• protect local businesses from criminal and civil liability due to accidental exposure to COVID-19;
• prohibit government from closing 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 who enters their buildings, to be vaccinated against COVID-19; and
• limit the scope and duration of emergency health orders issued by state and local governments.
Various amendments were debated on the House floor for hours Wednesday afternoon. House Amendment 3, sponsored by Rep. Suzie Pollock, R-Lebanon, was particularly contentious.
Pollock’s amendment stated that public schools would not be allowed to require students to be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria or hepatitis B. In short, parents could choose to “opt out” of these vaccines.
Missouri allows vaccination exemptions for religious or medical reasons. But Pollock said it is difficult for families to actually opt out of vaccinations, so the amendment would have made the process easier.
Pollock’s amendment faced heavy opposition from both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers said expanding vaccination exemptions would put vulnerable Missourians, such as immunocompromised children, at a heightened risk of becoming seriously ill.
Rep. Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar, said that by removing vaccination mandates, lawmakers would send “a clear message, an anti-vaccine message” to Missourians.
“Vaccines have a wonderful history of preventing disease and saving millions of lives throughout the world,” Stephens said. “But no medicine that you inject or take into your body will be completely safe for everybody, all the time.”
Stephens, who chairs the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee, said that regardless of how well-intentioned Pollock’s amendment was, it would send the wrong message.
Other lawmakers explained that although they vaccinated their children, they are in favor of individual freedom.
“I believe in vaccinations — my children and my grandchildren have their vaccinations,” Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said. “I think people should get vaccinated, but I truly believe that it is a parent’s right to make this decision.”
After over an hour of deliberation, Pollock’s amendment reached a roll-call vote in the House. The bipartisan body shot down the provision with a vote of 79-67.
Visionhealth Eye Center in Republic moved; Gettin’ Basted expanded north to Springfield; and the second Springfield facility for Blue Iguana Car Wash opened.
Jennifer Charleston, a 20-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department and the only female lieutenant in the department, talks with SBJ’s Christine Temple about her career in law enforcement and her new position in the department as a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community.
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Abby Glenn, development director for Habitat for Humanity, says corporate partners are a huge asset to the work they do. Corporate donation matching programs help individual donors feel they are contributing more and help Habitat for Humanity cover the large costs of their projects.
Alex Neville-Verdugo, museum director at the Discovery Center in Springfield, describes the opportunities the Discovery Center has through partnerships with other educational organizations. Neville-Verdugo says the Discovery Center’s virtual learning program reaches across multiple countries, with traffic mostly coming from the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth Hurst, business development manager at HR Advantage, says we do see fewer women in the workforce today than before the pandemic. Hurst says many women want more flexible work environments and that is one way employers can capture the female labor force.
Curtis Marshall, CEO of Tie & Timber Beer Company, says he sees work-life balance very differently. When he was younger, he would push himself to take on more and more responsibility, but would stop and put his career on hold for months while living in New Zealand or Mexico, or to start a pet software project. He says he lives by the philosophy of work hard and play hard.
Brent Cochran didn’t think he would become a retailer, but when thinking of ways to keep his young adult son with Down syndrome intellectually engaged, he came across a father and son team that did just that. Cochran, now owner of Al’s Pals Pet Place, says both the needs of his son and his affection for the family dog with a sensitive stomach led him to the world of e-commerce.
Michelle Romero, co-owner of PKD Venue, says her business has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by changing its business model to include food service. Now on top of serving as a venue for rent, they can keep revenue through online and pick up and go orders.
Dr. Clifton Petty, dean of the Breech School of Business at Drury University, lists three priorities for an effective MBA program. Petty says an entrepreneurial focus, a cohesive group of fellow students and an emphasis on hands-on experience are things students should look for in an MBA program. This is sponsored content.
Megan Short, the executive director of the Springfield Contractors Association, discusses her company’s organization strategies to encourage networking. She encourages organizing networking events around some activity and working to explicitly provide time during events for people to chat and have conversation.