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Bills to regulate adult entertainment industry placed on Missouri House calendar

Jefferson City — from – Legislation regulating the adult entertainment industry that was at the center of a federal grand jury investigation may come up for a vote in the House later this week.

The Senate passed the legislation nearly three months ago, shortly after a federal grand jury convened in Kansas City to investigate the demise of a similar bill in 2005.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Ron Richard [pictured] placed the bill on the House’s formal calendar. Majority Leader Steven Tilley, who picks which bills on the calendar to bring to the House floor, said the bill will be debated later this week or early next week. The session ends a week from Friday.

“With eight days left, it’s good to see the House is moving forward on the bill after 12 weeks of looking at it,” said sponsoring Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit.

Bartle testified before the grand jury in February that he believes there’s a link between a $35,000 donation from the adult entertainment industry to a political action committee with ties to former House Speaker Rod Jetton in 2005 and the bill dying that year.

Jetton, a Marble Hill Republican who has denied any wrongdoing, sent the legislation to a House committee whose chairman opposed the new regulations on strip clubs and pornography stores.

After it became apparent in late March that Jetton might not be indicted for bribery before the session ended, political reasons to pass the bill diminished, said Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar.

“I think it’s back to a legitimate debate on the issue, policy issues,” Emery said.

Emery said the grand jury investigation “played a part in moving the bill as quickly as it did earlier in the year.”

Bartle testified before the grand jury Feb. 2. The Senate gave first-round approval to his bill Feb. 4 and sent it to the House Feb. 11.

“It moved right out of the Senate when everyone was saying we better not be holding this bill up,” said John Putnam of Carthage, who has lobbied for new regulations of the adult entertainment industry for years.

The legislation would effectively ban lap dances in strip clubs by requiring semi-nude dancers to remain at least six feet away from patrons. It also would prohibit sexually oriented businesses from being open from midnight to 6 a.m.

Senate Bills 586 and 617 also would ban sexually oriented businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, libraries, licensed day cares, parks and churches.

Strip clubs and adult video stores would have to comply with new restrictions on the layout of their premises to ensure there are no back rooms.

Despite their powerful lobby, sexually oriented businesses need to be regulated like any other industry, Putnam said.

“If they’re going to make food preparers wear hair nets and sterilize needles in tattoo parlors, we think you need to have regulations of these places,” said Putnam, chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party.

Tilley said some libertarian-leaning House Republicans are concerned about the bill taking away ordinance power from local municipalities to regulate sexually oriented businesses.

“I think the politics has nothing to do with this,” said Tilley, R-Perryville. “I don’t think it’s something you want to push through (quickly).”

Emery said the secondary moral effects adult establishments may bring into a community outweigh the libertarian tendency to leave private businesses unregulated.

“If we legalize crystal meth, you still wouldn’t want a meth lab in your neighborhood,” Emery said.

Richard, R-Joplin, said he didn’t send the bill to the House Small Business Committee until March 30 because he was concentrating more on getting budget bills passed.

The House Small Business Committee passed the bill April 14 and the Rules Committee cleared it April 26.

The legislation has been in Richard’s possession for the past week.

“I could have sent it to a place where it could have gotten killed,” Richard said.

Bartle is term-limited and nearing the end of a 12-year career in the General Assembly. On Tuesday, he expressed frustration with Republican House leaders, who he believes are “looking for every reason they can not to take action.”

“The way to kill something, as you know, is to give the appearance of it making progress,” he said.

Bartle said “there’s no excuse” for Republicans who promote themselves as conservative defenders of family values to not pass a bill reining in the adult entertainment industry.

“A lot of the rank and file House members want to see this thing pass,” he said.

Bartle predicted that adult entertainment industry lobbyists are hard at work behind the scenes trying to stop the bill, although he had no proof campaign donations are being distributed — yet.

“I have no doubt that substantial resources are being brought to bear against us and I think it’s going to be very difficult to pass this,” Bartle said.


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