Missouri local health officials have issued stay-at-home orders and gathering restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some Republicans are challenging their authority to issue health orders. Legislation in the Missouri Senate would limit the authority of public health agencies. The Health and Pensions Committee heard seven bills aimed at limiting public health agencies’ power Wednesday afternoon. Representatives from Missouri’s restaurant community testified in support of the bills. Chris Saracino was one of several restaurant owners in St. Louis County who testified against the county’s public health orders made by County Executive Sam Page. He says Page’s order has devastated his business.

The bills include a wide range of options, from eliminating county health departments’ ability to enforce restrictions altogether to requirements that local governmental bodies must approve any such restrictions. Some bills specifically remove local ability to limit religious gatherings.