Missouri House OKs hospital visitors on final day

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s GOP-led House spent its last day of the session Friday passing language protecting patient visitor access at hospitals and farm owners’ rights.

House lawmakers had little left available to do after the Republican-led Senate on Thursday approved new congressional districts then adjourned for the session, cutting off work on all other bills.

The House also on Thursday passed a top Republican priority: once again requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The measure, which allows voters to cast a provisional ballot if they don’t bring proper ID to vote, passed with a Democratic-backed amendment permitting two weeks of in-person, no-excuse early voting.

On Friday, House lawmakers worked on less-controversial bills with bipartisan support.

House members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the regulations on hospital, nursing home, hospice and other long-term care patients. The measure was motivated by visitor bans and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who hasn’t yet weighed in on the proposal, the bill will guarantee hospital and nursing home patients can have at least two designated visitors.

During states of emergency, patients can designate an essential caregiver who could continue to visit them in person.

The legislation still allows hospitals and nursing homes to put rules and restrictions on visitors, including for patients with transmissible infections such as coronavirus.

Hospitals and nursing homes could ban visitors if the patient’s health is at risk or if it’s required under federal law. Facilities could get permission from the state health department to enact week-long visitor bans during pandemics or other emergencies.

House members also gave final approval to an eminent-domain bill on Friday.

Primarily Republican lawmakers have been working for years to block the use of eminent domain for the Grain Belt Express, a large wind-energy power line cutting through Missouri.

Lawmakers this year pared-down the proposal to exempt the Grain Belt Express and only apply to projects moving forward.

The measure requires farm owners to be paid at least 150% of market value if their properties are taken through eminent domain.