Corporate Immunity Is Longtime Focus of Conservative Movement - 2020-05-26
Senate Republicans' top priority for the next coronavirus relief bill, which would protect employers that face lawsuits if their workers get sick or die of Covid-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — on the job, is the culmination of a decade-old effort by conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been focused on corporate immunity for weeks, warning that looming lawsuits related to the coronavirus could crush the nation's recovery efforts going forward. Republican proposals would limit liability for certain eligible companies that have resumed in-person operations, provided that businesses follow existing safety and health guidelines specific to Covid-19. In remarks on the Senate floor earlier this month, McConnell thanked fellow Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas for "thinking proactively about the issue of legal liability."
ALEC, a Koch-backed nonprofit that drafts model bills for state legislators, has pushed similar corporate immunity measures on the state level since the early 2000s, part of a broader Republican push to overhaul tort law. At least 10 states have adopted such measures. In the wake of the pandemic, the group is now adapting existing model bills to limit liability in cases specifically related to the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported. In Utah and North Carolina — where ALEC's past chair is the state House's chair of appropriations — lawmakers this month passed new business liability protections giving immunity to businesses, property owners, health care providers, and other essential businesses operating during the pandemic.