State Senator Andrew Koenig’s bill calls for a maximum shutdown of two weeks over a two-year period. Anything beyond that must go through state lawmakers
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Lawmakers and business owners came together Tuesday morning with a united message: one person shouldn’t have the final say on restrictions in local municipalities.
“No one person should have the power to make law and shut our businesses down,” said State Senator Andrew Koenig.
The Republican lawmaker and others who joined him referred to St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the health orders he has enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently shutting down indoor dining in county restaurants and restricting capacity at other businesses to 25%.
“We don’t want one-person rule,” Koenig stressed to the reporters and people gathered outside Satchmo’s Bar & Grill in Chesterfield for his announcement Tuesday.
Koenig — who represents the 15th district, which includes a large portion of central, southwest and west St. Louis County — released details about the bill he plans to file that would not only limit Page’s powers, but it would restrict the authority of local leaders throughout Missouri.
The main draw of his bill calls for a maximum shutdown of two weeks over a two-year period. Anything beyond that must go through the Missouri General Assembly and then be signed by the governor, Koenig said.
The state lawmaker’s bill also states a shutdown can’t happen without a legislative body voting on it first. He also included protections for businesses, religious institutions and parents.
Koenig said he plans to file the bill in the regular session next year and the special session this year. It includes an emergency clause, so if it gets passed by the general assembly and signed by the governor, it goes into effect immediately.
Page has argued the county charter gives him and the county health department emergency powers to impose restrictions.
On Monday, the county executive said he couldn’t comment specifically on something he hasn’t seen, but said, “This legislation does provide the opportunity to discuss these difficult decisions around public health orders.”
“But what I’ve seen in St. Louis County and even across the country is that the vast majority of our residents understand the difficult sacrifices we are making, including restrictions on restaurants and bars for indoor dining and recognizing that these are difficult but necessary decisions,” said Page in his near-daily news conference Monday.
5 On Your Side has contacted Page and his office for a comment following Koenig’s announcement Tuesday morning.
The county council has voted to limit Page’s power, but did not have the votes to override his veto and has failed to pass other attempts to limit his authority during this pandemic.
Koenig wants Governor Mike Parson to expedite his bill by including it in a special session Tuesday.
But would supporting a bill aimed at St. Louis County require the governor to flip his position on how COVID-19 mandates should be made?
“You’ve got to give the local areas the flexibility to know what’s best for their communities,” Parson said about restrictions this past summer and several other times since.
Monday, his spokesperson Kelli Jones would only say, “Governor Parson expects the legislature to address this issue in January,” which means he likely won’t add it to a special session and any bill lawmakers pass may not take effect for months.
You can watch the full announcement from Koenig, lawmakers and business leaders in the YouTube video below.