(The Center Square) – Cole County Judge Daniel Green on Thursday upheld a newly adopted state law that places restrictions on local public health orders challenged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a St. Louis suburb.
The city of Overland requested a temporary order preventing House Bill 271 from going into effect, claiming the massive bill violates Missouri’s “Hammerschmidt rule,” which restricts lawmakers from passing confusing multi-pronged bills.
“The Missouri Supreme Court has provided repeated and increasingly frequent warnings to the General Assembly and the Governor of the impropriety of enacting similarly flawed laws,” Overland’s lawsuit states. “This bill reflects that these admonishments continue to go largely unheeded, and it once again falls to the courts to ensure the integrity of the legislative process established by the people in the Missouri Constitution.”
“There are so many provisions that are not at all germane,” Overland attorney Greg Dohrman said during Thursday’s hearing.
Green agreed that the city was “factually correct” in its arguments that HB 271 is a “Christmas tree bill” that spanned many different topics, but is misinterpreting the Supreme Court’s “admonishments.”
In fact, he said, his hands were tied in issuing a ruling in what is a very narrow legal argument because the Missouri Supreme Court has a standing precedent that determines omnibus bills, such as HB 271, do not violate the “Hammerschmidt rule.”
Overland’s legal challenge is the second filed against HB 271 before Green and the first to be heard. Cedar and Cooper counties have also asked Green to block HB 271 from being implemented.
Neither complaints directly address HB 271’s public health order restrictions. The city’s lawsuit challenges a provision affecting how much municipalities can charge utility companies for public rights-of-way and the counties want the section involving concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, repealed.
But Green said he sided with Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s interpretation that HB 271 does not violate the constitution. That was the state’s argument in securing an injunction suspending St. Louis County’s mask mandate and in similar lawsuits that Schmitt has filed against mask mandates in St. Louis, Jackson County and Kansas City.
Sponsored by Rep. John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon, the House Speaker Pro Tem, HB 271 began as a three-page proposal to create the Missouri Local Government Expenditure Database to be maintained by the state’s Office of Administration.
By the time it was approved 140-12 by House and 29-3 by the Senate on May 12, HB 271 was a 49-page omnibus package with 51 provisions that spanned 25 chapters of state law.
Under HB 271, a local health agency’s public health orders can only be in effect a maximum 30 days before a county’s governing body must act to extend the order by a simple majority; if the governor has not declared a state of emergency, local boards must act within 21 days.
HB 271 forbids governments from requiring proof of vaccination to access a transportation system or other public accommodation.
’While we encourage all Missourians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is not the government’s job to force them,” Gov. Mike Parson said when he signed the bill into law on June 15.
Originally Appeared Here