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Last month, Gov. Mike Parson added another task for lawmakers during their special session to consider a supplemental bill tied to coronavirus relief.

The added call was to shield hospitals and businesses against COVID-19 lawsuits.

We argued in a Nov. 20 editorial that the governor and Legislature should proceed cautiously. The tough situation requires a careful balance. There is merit to blocking baseless suits, we said, but we shouldn't block the public's ability to seek grievance for cases that do have merit.

So we're pleased Parson asked lawmakers to hold off on the proposed legislation.

Parson said last week new language introduced for the bill fell outside the scope of special session, but though he asked lawmakers to hold off, he hoped the issue would be a priority in January.

We believe Parson made the right call.

For one thing, it cleared the decks so the Missouri Senate could finish approving a nearly $1.3 billion supplemental spending that gives the state access to federal coronavirus relief funds.

The Missouri Independent, a new nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization, reported Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said in a statement that the liability-limiting legislation "remains a top priority to protect Missouri small businesses and deliver certainty in these uncertain times."

"We'll continue working to find an effective solution as quickly as possible," Rowden said.

The legislation is being championed by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the business community. It's opposed by the Missouri NEA, Missouri AFL-CIO, AARP and Missouri Nurses Association, among others.

We haven't heard of a rash of COVID-19-related lawsuits that would cause an immediate need for this legislation. By waiting until the regular session starts in January, we hope lawmakers will take a more deliberate and bipartisan approach, hopefully seeking input from the public along the way.

News Tribune

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