Missouri Senate Approves Anti-Porn Bill

Missouri Senate Approves Anti-Porn Bill
Gretchen Gallen
JEFFERSON CITY – A bill aimed at regulating sexually-oriented businesses received approval from the Missouri senate and now faces one more round of voting before it reaches the House.

Bill SB 32, which is being sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, seeks to curtail the freedoms currently afforded to strip clubs and adult video retail outlets by imposing additional taxes, fees and strict codes of conduct on adult establishments.

The bill would empower counties, cities, towns and villages to create ordinances that would require adult businesses to be licensed and would give them additional zoning power to regulate the location of those businesses.

Bartle claims that the legislation intends to protect public policy interests and limit harm to minors and crime reduction, but critics of the bill feel strongly that it would violate constitutional rights.

The bill is similar to state regulations on casinos and gambling enterprises, and all monies collected from adult business owners would be deposited into a state school money fund.

The bill defines adult businesses as those that offer patrons goods and services based on sexually-oriented material or performances and any location that uses more than ten percent of its display space for adult materials.

In detail, SB 32 would charge club and retail owners a $5 per-customer fee and a 20 percent tax on revenues and would shut businesses down during prime business hours, between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m.

The bill also would make it a misdemeanor for adult business owners to exhibit films, videos or DVDS containing sexually-explicit content in private viewing rooms, and it would be considered a nuisance to allow any sexual activity on the premises.

SB 32 would prohibit businesses from employing anyone under the age of 21 and would make it a Class A misdemeanor if a stripper does not perform at a specified distance from patrons and behind a railing. The bill also would make it a misdemeanor for an employee, while nude, to either be touched or receive a gratuity from a patron.

The bill comes on the heels of another bill generated in May that placed a statewide ban on billboards promoting sex clubs, sex shops and strip clubs.

Free speech advocates were vocal in their opposition to the bill, but it still managed to clear the House and the Senate and is now awaiting Missouri Gov. Bob Holde's signature.

The billboard ban would apply to a one-mile radius from Missouri highways and gives adult billboards three years to phase out of existence, whereas all new billboards advertising adult entertainment businesses would be prohibited under the state law.

According to reports from the Department of Transportation, there are an estimated 12,000 billboards along Missouri state highways, although the number of adult-themed billboards has not been determined.