Legislature to clean up porno billboards
By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY – The state House of Representatives is considering a Senate bill intended to reduce the number of billboards promoting sexually oriented businesses along Missouri ’s highways.
Senate Bill 870, sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit , passed the Senate March 4 and was read in the House that same day. The measure would require that most billboards advertising adult cabarets or pornographic material be placed at least one mile from a highway. Two onsite signs, one with the name and operating hours of the business and another noting it is off limits to minors, would be allowed.
“ Missouri is a beautiful state," said Rep. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, sponsor of a similar House bill. “Tourism is either our No. 1 or No. 2 industry, depending on who you talk to. We’ve heard from people who are really surprised when they come to Missouri to see so many billboards on our interstates and highways that are promoting adult-oriented businesses."
The co-sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Trent Skaggs, D-North Kansas City and a deacon at First Baptist Church , North Kansas City , agreed.
“The problem we have with the billboards is that anybody and everybody is exposed to them," Skaggs said. “If you want to buy a newspaper or a magazine, you actually have to go out and purchase that. (With) television you have the option of what you’re watching, but along the highways there’s absolutely no choice. Your children, tourists and everybody are exposed to those."
Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention, agrees with Bartle, a deacon at First Baptist Church , Raytown , on the merits of the legislation. Bartle, an attorney, said court precedent allows governments to restrict commercial speech when there is a “substantial public interest," which is lower than the “compelling" interest required on an individual’s free-speech rights.
“We have all the clear authority that we need judicially and historically to move forward with this legislation," Messer said.
March 18, 2004