Lawmakers strike two blows again porn
Bill cleaning up pornographic billboards passes Legislature
By Allen Palmeri
May 25, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – A bill intended to reduce the number of billboards promoting sexually oriented businesses along Missouri ’s highways passed the General Assembly May 6 and is likely to be signed by Gov. Bob Holden, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown.
“I’m thrilled that we were able to pass the billboards bill, and I have high hopes that over time we will begin to clean up Missouri’s roadways,” Bartle said.
Bartle said Gov. Bob Holden will sign the bill into law. “He’s told us he’s going to sign it, so I take him at his word.”
Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said Holden is planning a signing ceremony in Kansas City. Holden would not confirm any details, but he did signal support.
“I don’t see any serious problems with the bill,” Holden said.
The bill would require that most billboards advertising adult cabarets or pornographic material be placed at least one mile from a highway. Bartle, an attorney, said county prosecutors have been begging lawmakers for a tool that would help them go after these sex shops, which are seen as an intrusion in rural Missouri.
Only two signs for these businesses would be allowed. One would have the name and business hours. Another would signal it cannot be frequented by minors. Other signs would constitute a violation of the law, meaning the business owner would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.
If signed into law, the bill will be challenged in court, Bartle said. Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention, said he welcomes such a challenge.
“To say that billboards should have absolute free speech rights flies in the face of all common decency,” Messer said. “We’re going to reclaim our state. We’re going to clean it up. I’m proud of our legislators who have taken on this battle.
“If the prosecutors in the state would quit running from the news media and start enforcing the obscenity statute of the state, every adult industry in this state would be gone.”
Messer said the sex shops have exceeded cultural tolerance, going too far, too fast with their many explicit ads. That created a climate in the state Capitol where Republicans and Democrats alike felt the need to define obscenity and attempt to control it.
“We have people by the droves complaining that you can’t travel the interstate highway system of the state of Missouri without almost blindfolding your children because of the affront that’s occurring,” Messer said. “The industry’s become more brazen and bold, and some of their advertising is pretty risqué.”