Missouri passes restrictions on sexual businesses - KMOV.com

Missouri passes restrictions on sexual businesses

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- No nudity. No touching. No alcohol. No minors. And no business after midnight.

Missouri lawmakers gave final approval Thursday night to a long list of new "no's" for sexually oriented businesses that would segregate them from the community and keep scantily clad employees separate from patrons.

The House passed the bill 118-28. The Senate followed suit with a 27-4 vote, sending it to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Supporters argued that strip clubs and adult video stores are a scourge on society -- contributing to seedy behavior, demeaning women, causing divorces and driving down property values.

"This sets in place serious, significant protections to try to minimize those negative affects on communities," said Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, who handled the bill in the House.

The legislation marks Missouri's third attempt in recent years to restrict the adult entertainment industry.

A federal appeals court struck down a 2004 law limiting signs and billboards for sexually oriented businesses as an unconstitutional infringement on commercial speech.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a 2005 law that contained similar restrictions as this year's bill, ruling lawmakers had unconstitutionally added the provisions to an unrelated bill on drunken driving. A federal grand jury has been investigating whether political contributions from the adult entertainment industry affected the handling of that 2005 bill in the House. But no charges have been brought.

"Without a doubt, the federal investigation was a wind at our back," propelling the bill to passage this year, said sponsoring Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit.

Bartle testified before the grand jury in February and said he believed there was a link between porn industry money and legislative maneuvering on his 2005 bill.

Some House Democrats temporarily stalled the bill this year with a variety of objections. They said it infringed on the free market, cut into local control, placed religious and political viewpoints into law and would force some businesses to close -- driving up unemployment and reducing state tax revenues.

"If we had a vote by secret ballot, this bill would die," said Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, who voted against the bill. "But everybody wants to be holier than thou."

The Missouri legislation would apply to strip clubs, adult video and book stores and other businesses of a sexual nature, including semi-nude model studios.

It would ban full nudity, alcohol, anyone younger than 18 and touching between semi-nude employees and customers. To ensure strippers are off-limits, the bill requires semi-nude employees to remain on a stage at least 18 inches high and at least 6 feet from customers in a room of at least 600 square feet.

The bill also requires sexually oriented businesses to close at midnight and prohibits them from locating within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, churches, libraries, parks, day cares or other sexually oriented businesses.

The location restrictions would apply only to businesses opening after the bill's Aug. 28 effective date. But existing businesses may have to remodel. They would have 180 days to comply with the stage and building requirements.

Businesses or individuals that don't abide by the requirements could face misdemeanor charges punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail for each day a violation exists.

A lobbyist for Missouri's adult entertainment association declined to comment Thursday about the legislation. But supporters and opponents alike predicted the bill would face a legal challenge.

The Missouri bill closely follows a model developed by Chattanooga, Tenn., attorney Scott Bergthold, who advises cities and states on how to regulate sexually oriented businesses and helps defend those regulations in court.

He said restrictions on operating hours, nudity and buffers between exotic dancers and patrons have been upheld elsewhere in court.

"There's really no solid constitutional argument that can be made" against them, Bergthold said.

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Sexual business bill is SB586.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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