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St. Louis County Council Rejects Limits On States Of Emergency

St. Louis County Councilmen Mark Harder, right, and Tim Fitch, left, speak to reporters on April 30, 2020, about their plan to reopen businesses.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis County Council voted on party lines Tuesday to reject limits on the length of states of emergency. Republicans Tim Fitch (L), Mark Harder (R) and Ernie Trakas (not pictured) supported the limits, while the four Democrats did not.

The St. Louis County Council has rejected an effort to give its members greater say in how long states of emergency can last in the county.

The council voted along party lines Tuesday night to defeat two charter changes proposed by Republican Tim Fitch. The move followed more than two hours of public comments, with more than 100 people submitting statements in support of the changes.

Fitch wanted to limit a state of emergency to 15 days and require any extension to be approved by two-thirds of the council. The limits would have also applied to public health orders. Because the proposals changed the charter, they would have needed the approval of voters as well.

“This is not about partisan politics, and it’s not about wearing masks,” Fitch said before the council acted. “It’s about one branch of government providing a check on the other.

The four Democratic council members did not explain their votes.

The county has been under a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic since March 13.

Also on Tuesday, Lisa Clancy, the council’s Democratic chairwoman, said she expected to receive a report from the county’s health department “very shortly” on possible modifications that would allow the council to resume in-person meetings.

“But we will continue to be aligned with the guidance received from public health officials as we continue to navigate a crisis that is still concerning in our community right now,” Clancy said. “Our top priority is going to be to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

Fitch and his fellow Republicans, Mark Harder and Ernie Trakas, asked for in-person meetings to resume last month.

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.