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Legislators redefining ‘nudity’ for billboard

Kansas City, Missouri- What is “nudity?”

Legislation sponsored by Missouri Sen. Matt Bartle and headed toward a final Senate vote this week defines it as “any bare exposure of the skin located on a person’s body below the armpits and above the knees.”

Like a backless formal evening gown, perhaps? A mini-skirt? Tennis shorts?

Or even a man wearing swimming trunks, since the bill makes no distinction for gender?

“That’s not my definition,” Bartle, a Lee’s Summit Republican, said Monday. “This bill is a work in progress. The definition of nudity is going to change.”

Bartle’s Senate Bill 870 was intended to snuff out billboards within one mile of any state highway that advertise strip bars or stores that sell X-rated merchandise.

After several amendments were added over Bartle’s objections, however, the bill now threatens to prohibit billboard advertising not only for sexually oriented businesses, but also a wide range of what it terms “adult cabaret” establishments.

One Kansas City casino lawyer speculated Monday the bill’s proposed legal definition for adult cabarets could encompass his industry and many others.

“With just a little imagination it could include casinos or even Arrowhead stadium,” said Troy Stremming, an Ameristar executive and president of the Missouri Riverboat Gaming Association.

“I would say the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders’ costumes are more revealing than casino cocktail waitresses’,” Stremming said.

The bill defines an adult cabaret as any “nightclub, bar, restaurant or similar establishment in which persons appear in a state of nudity in the performance of their duties.”

Under the bill’s current anything-between-the-armpits-and-knees-is-nude definition, adult cabarets might then also include live stage or movie theaters and even opera performances where entertainers are sometimes scantily clad. Critics of the bill say the same could go for restaurants where the waitresses wear short skirts or even shorter shorts – such as Hooters, for instance.

The legislation doesn’t outlaw any lack of clothing on employees or the entertainment inside those establishments. It only bars those businesses from advertising on billboards to passersby traveling on nearby state highways.

Other existing state laws that also regulate nudity are far more anatomically precise about what body parts must be covered.

Bartle said “harassing” amendments added to the bill on the Senate floor are apparently aimed at slowing down or killing the legislation.

“You can’t let legislation get stalled,” Bartle said. “If I did not allow that amendment, we would have just kept talking about it.”

Instead, Bartle said he opted to fight it out in the lower chamber where the legislation will be rewritten. “We’ll fix it in the House,” he said.

Bartle noted that the casino industry did not testify against the measure. “The only people that testified against the bill were the porn shops,” he said.

The bill is awaiting its final floor vote on the Senate’s third-reading calendar, which bars further amendments.



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