The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2, 2010

Time running out for bill regulating adult businesses

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

— Southwest Missouri residents who have been battling an adult video store and spa near Sarcoxie want action this week on legislation that would regulate sexually oriented businesses in the state.

A bill has been passed by the Missouri Senate and is set for final action in the House.

“Now that the budget is out of the way, we should know (this week) whether there is any genuine interest in getting it done. We’re being patient,” said John Putnam, a Jasper County resident and member of Citizens for a Decent Environment.

Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is handling the measure in the House. Emery sponsored a similar measure, but the version getting legislative action is one that combines measures sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, and Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon.

“We’re trying to move the Senate version,” Emery said. “We’re hoping we can convince the floor leader to take it up early (this) week, because we’re running out of time.”

The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 11 by a 29-2 vote. After House action, the bill would have to go back to the Senate for another vote, because the House version “corrects a couple of mistakes that were found,” Emery said.

He said he hopes the differences between the House and Senate versions don’t become so significant that the bill has to be worked out in a conference committee.

“That would add another day, then it would have to come back to both houses,” Emery said. “With two weeks left, we’re really fighting the calendar.”

Goodman said he remains hopeful that the bill can be passed, “but if it has to go to conference, every required step lowers the probabilities.”

The legislation would:

n Bar sexually oriented businesses from being within 1,000 feet of a residence, school, church, licensed day care center, library, park or other sexually oriented business.

n Bar some convicted felons from operating the businesses.

n Bar nudity and require seminude performers to be on stage away from patrons.

n Limit operating hours, and ban the sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises.

n Require an unobstructed view of all patron areas. Operations that do not meet that mandate would be given 180 days to comply after the Aug. 28 effective date.

The bill also allows political subdivisions to enact their own, stricter ordinances to regulate such businesses, if the ordinances are consistent with state law.

Some Jasper County residents organized to battle sexually oriented businesses after the opening of Vegas Video off Interstate 44 between Joplin and Sarcoxie.

Putnam, who testified in favor of the bill before the House Small Business Committee, said the outlet started as a video store and now has adult theaters and an adult spa.

“And another one has opened at the Stotts City exit; they know they can because nothing will be done,” Putnam said.

Describing the outlets as “smut shops,” Goodman said the businesses “are not what this area is about.”

“They’re not catering to local clientele,” he said. “Their parking lots are full of cars with out-of-state plates, and we don’t need to be enticing sexual predators to Southwest Missouri.”

Clock ticking

Advocates of legislation regulating sexually oriented businesses in Missouri have less than two weeks remaining. The legislative session ends at 5 p.m. May 14.