Missouri House passes immunization accountability bill

Employers requiring vaccination for their workers would be liable for damages or injuries resulting from vaccination under a bill passed Monday by the Missouri House of Representatives.

Under the legislation, which members voted 84 to 58 to introduce in the Senate, any employer, including private businesses and organizations, that requires vaccinations would be liable if their employees suffer injury or damage related to the vaccination.

“If the vaccines are 100% reliable, there is no need to worry. There will be no court battles,” said bill sponsor Mitch Boggs, R-LaRussell.

Both Republicans and Democrats have spoken out against the legislation in the House.

Rep. Barbara Phifer, D-St. Louis, referenced how the Missouri Chamber of Commerce opposes this bill.

“It looks like it’s overreaching the government from their point of view and inviting all sorts of litigation, which will make it very costly for businesses,” Phifer said.

Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, also explained how bad the measure is for the state’s business climate.

“In my view, that certainly doesn’t mean Missouri is open for business. He says the legislature is finding new ways to prosecute you for behavior over which you have very little control,” Christofanelli said.

The bill does not prohibit employers from purchasing insurance to protect themselves and their employees from any liability that may arise.

911 dispatchers as emergency responders

In a majority bipartisan vote, House members passed legislation that elevates the status of 911 dispatchers to that of emergency responders in the state.

The legislation, which members passed Monday by a vote of 148 to 0, puts dispatchers in the same category as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The designation gives them more benefits and support, including treatment for PTSD.

Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, said he listened to the calls the dispatchers took and how much the dispatchers really care about the people on the other end of the line.

“And he’s someone who’s been overlooked for a very long time and I think it’s time we brought them into the 21st century by talking to them for who they really are and they’re first responders as well.” , Roden said.

New wording that allowed first responders to be exempted from vaccinations required because of religious beliefs or medical reasons was scrapped, paving the way for greater support from House Democrats.

Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, said it was important to give dispatchers their due.

“The dispatchers are kind of treated like they’re nothing and they take a lot of the trauma with them. They have to sit around and go through traumatic experiences day after day,” Bosley said.

Ballot box ban

In a less bipartisan vote, the House also passed legislation on Monday that will ban the use of ballot boxes in Missouri elections.

Representatives voted 98 to 48 to pass the bill, which defines ballot boxes as “unattended deposits for ballots,” not including mailboxes owned by the United States Postal Service.

Rep. Democrat Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, spoke out against the bill. He said the state shouldn’t tell counties how to run their elections

“If some counties want to have drop boxes and zones because it works for them. We shouldn’t take local control away from what certain counties and cities want to do when it comes to their elections,” Aldridge said.

The bill also imposes a labeling requirement for political subdivisions and special district voting measures, as well as phasing out certain touchscreen electronic vote counting machines.

Some exceptions for the machines exist under the bill, as election officials can continue to operate them for voters with disabilities who wish to use them. Otherwise, beginning in 2023, the state will count a voter’s hand-marked paper ballots as official ballots.

All three bills are now heading to the Senate, with three weeks remaining for them to become law.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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