Missouri Senate postpones special session amid COVID cases among members, staff

Politics

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate has postponed a special session due to COVID cases among members and staff.

Lawmakers were set to be bac inside the Capitol this week to discuss distributing CARES Act funds across the state and COVID liability protection, but now with COVID cases rising throughout the Senate, things are on hold until after the holiday.

Senate Majority Leaders sent out a statement Monday saying action for the special session will be taken after Thanksgiving.

Due to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff, the Missouri Senate will postpone action related to the extra legislative session until after the Thanksgiving holiday. This decision was not made lightly and, although disruptive, is in the best interest of protecting members, staff and the public.

After the House passed a roughly $1.2 billion package last Tuesday, giving spending power to Gov. Parson, it was supposed to be the Senate’s turn this week.

Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo posted on social media late Monday afternoon about the news of the session being postponed.

Parson left an event in Jefferson City Monday without talking to reporters, but during his press conference Thursday, the governor said fighting this virus is about personal responsibility.

“It’s not about a mask mandate and it’s not about politics,” Parson said. “It’s about social distancing, it’s about 15 minutes, it’s about every Missouri citizen doing their part.”

A day after the press conference, the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) sent a letter to the governor. In the letter, President and CEO of MHA Herb Kuhn said, “The wolf is at the door. Missouri’s hospitals urge you to issue a statewide masking mandate. A mask mandate may be unappealing to some, but it has become necessary. We urge your immediate action of this issue.”

Spokesperson for the MHA Dave Dillion said the face mask is a tool and it’s the only way to help slow this pandemic.

“This is clearly not something that is no longer isolated and more importantly, the entire state is pulling on a collective hospital resource,” Dillion said. “We are at a pivot point and where we are with hospitals is unprecedented and it is not easily fixable by the normal tools of the modern American economy that we can industrialize our way out of or science our way out of it because it just takes too long to create a health care worker.”

When Parson was asked about a statewide mask mandate last week, he held firm to his position.

“First of all, I wouldn’t say that there is not one,” Parson said. “I mean, the vast majority of the people in this state are under a mandate, across the state of Missouri, whether you’re in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia or Springfield, where the main populations are. A lot of towns, a lot of cities, a lot of counties are. So, to kind of, to make the assumption there’s not a mask mandate, there most certainly is in the state of Missouri.”

The governor continued by saying it’s up to local control.

“It’s up to the local levels to be able to do that,” Parson said. “I mean, that’s why you have elections. That’s the purist form of democracy is for them to be able to make those decisions.”

After the Senate postponed its special session, Speaker Designee Rob Vescovo announced the delaying of a two-week bus tour. The tour happens every two-years for lawmakers coming into the Missouri House. Representatives were set to take off later this month, but instead Vescovo is looking at dates next summer.

Out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to protect the health and well-being of members, staff and the general public, we have decided to postpone the two-week statewide bus tour for newly-elected House members. The tour is an incredibly important learning opportunity that gives new members first-hand experiences with many of the programs and facilities around the state that are impacted by their decisions in Jefferson City. I am committed to ensuring our new members will be able to benefit from this incredible educational experience at a future date when we can conduct the tour in a safe and responsible fashion that doesn’t risk further spread of COVID-19.

Vescovo said the House will continue to hold three-day orientation for the new representatives in the Capitol. The chief clerk of the House said there will be social distancing and streaming will be allowed for representatives who don’t want to come in.

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