Missouri legislators are pressing for passage of legislation which would curb the proliferation of sexually oriented businesses in the state. Bills have been filed in both the Missouri House and Senate which would regulate the
operations of so-called "adult" bookstores, video stores, arcades, and cabarets.
The key provision in the proposed legislation is a ban on the establishment of a sexually oriented business within 1000 feet of any school, church, day care facility, public park or library, personal residence, or any other sexually oriented business.
"If you have a church, you don't want a smut shop going in next door," said Senator Matt Bartle
of Lee's Summit in testimony before the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Bartle and Senator
Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon are the sponsors of identical bills being considered by the Senate. Representative Ed Emery of Lamar has introduced a similar bill in the Missouri House.
The legislation cites the adverse secondary effects of sexually-oriented businesses, including "personal and property crimes, prostitution, potential spread of disease, lewdness, public indecency, obscenity, illegal drug use and trafficking, negative impacts on surrounding properties, urban blight, litter, and sexual assault and exploitation."
The sponsors argue that such legislation is needed to minimize the impact of the secondary effects of such businesses and to prevent an unnecessary concentration of such businesses in one area.
Like many states, Missouri has become populated with stores selling sexually explicit material and nightclubs with
nude or semi-nude dancers, with billboards lining the interstates advertising these sleazy businesses. With the recent trend of pornography consumption occurring through online internet sources, many of these businesses have focused on
accommodating actual sexual encounters, which raises serious public health and safety concerns.
Unfortunately, due to U.S. Supreme Court decisions, it is virtually impossible to ban the operation of sexually oriented businesses. Yet the courts have increasingly upheld legislation in recent years which enforces so-called "time, place, and manner" restrictions on such businesses, or which establish health and safety regulations.
The bills being discussed by the General Assembly
ban total nudity in such establishments, and require that semi-nude dancers remain at a distance from patrons of such establishments. Businesses with video arcades must ensure that such rooms are open for continuing observation by an attendant to dissuade sexual activity from occurring onsite.
No alcoholic beverages can be served on the premises of a sexually oriented business, noon under 18 can enter, and all such businesses must shut down between midnight and 6 AM, when incidents of crime most often occur. In another significant feature, the bills ban any person from having an "influential interest" in a sexually oriented business who has a criminal record.
The bill would empower local prosecutors to go to court to seek fines against noncompliant businesses. They also
would be authorized to seek judicial action against such businesses as public nuisances if there are repeated violations of the new regulations.
Repeated attempts to pass legislation in the Missouri General Assembly cracking down on sexually oriented businesses have failed over the years. A recent report in the Kansas City Star suggests that previous attempts to regulate strip clubs and "adult" video stores may have been influenced by well-timed political contributions from the "adult entertainment" industry.
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Senator Bartle is determined to make this the year that action is finally taken. We will keep you posted on the progress of these bills.
We commend Senator Bartle, Senator Goodman, and Representative Emery for taking a stand for decency in our state, and for their concern for families, children, and communities throughout Missouri. May God bless their valiant efforts.