Gov. Jay Nixon today vetoed a bill that would have delayed by two years a requirement for residential care and assisted living facilities in Missouri to install sprinkler systems. The Governor said that the protection of the elderly and individuals with disabilities who reside in those facilities was too important to push back, particularly since the original law requiring the sprinkler systems by the end of 2012 has been in place for four years already.
In November 2006, a fire killed 10 residents and a staff member at the Anderson Guest House, a group home for individuals with mental disabilities in Anderson. The home had no sprinkler system. The deadly fire led to the passage of a bill in 2007 requiring long-term care facilities to install such systems by Dec. 31, 2012. In 2011, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 118, which would have delayed that requirement until Dec. 31, 2014.
The Governor vetoed SB 118 at the Southside Senior Center in Springfield, where he was joined by State Fire Marshal Randy Cole and the chiefs of several southwest Missouri fire departments.
"The loss of life from the Anderson Guest House fire led to important changes to protect the most vulnerable in our society," Gov. Nixon said. "The law provided these facilities with more than five years to install the basic measures that would save lives. Yet here we are, several years later, with only incremental progress made toward having sprinkler systems in every group home. Any further delay puts lives unnecessarily at risk, and that is unacceptable."
"Four years ago, the General Assembly acted quickly and correctly in a bi-partisan effort to ensure that the tragic events at the Anderson Guest House would not happen again at another long-term care facility," said state Sen. Jack Goodman, of Mount Vernon, who was instrumental in passing the original legislation in 2007. "Pushing back those important protections would endanger residents who already are vulnerable in emergency situations. Gov. Nixon made the right decision in vetoing this bill."
"Anderson Guest House was in my district, but this is an issue of statewide importance because there are group homes and other long-term care facilities throughout Missouri that have no sprinkler systems," said former state Rep. Kevin Wilson, sponsor of the original 2007 legislation. "Legislation passed in 2007 by an almost unanimous vote of the General Assembly protected the elderly and the disabled, and gave sufficient time for facilities to implement these measures. Gov. Nixon did the right thing in staying with our original deadline."
Under federal law, the vast majority of intermediate-care facilities and skilled nursing facilities will be required to have sprinkler systems by August 2013, and would have been unaffected by the extension provided by Senate Bill 118. Most skilled nursing facilities (475 out of 499) and intermediate-care facilities (27 out of 31) already have compliant systems.
Residential care facilities and assisted living facilities, however, are not under that federal deadline. To date, 78 residential care facilities (out of 426 total) and 18 assisted living facilities (out of 180 total) in Missouri would not have the type of sprinkler systems required by the Anderson Guest House legislation passed in 2007.