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Senate debates bill requring additional taxation on sexually-oriented businesses

February 23, 2005
By: Jeana Bruce
State Capital Bureau

  • Bill Number: SB32

  • Bill Sponsor: Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Jackson County)

  • Bill Summary: Impose tax on sexually-oriented businesses, including $5 admission fee and 20% gross receipts tax

  • Bill Status: up for third read in Senate, then goes to House

    JEFFERSON CITY - Sex sells but now it could come at a higher price.

    The Senate debated a bill proposed by Sen. Matt Bartle (R-Jackson County) Wednesday that would charge a five dollar admission fee per patron and a 20 percent tax for sexually-oriented businesses. Ten percent of a business's merchandise would have to be sexually related to qualify.

    Bartle said Missouri's lenient restrictions on the porn industry have caused an expansion in these businesses.

    "All over the state of Missouri, sexually-oriented businesses have popped up like mushrooms after a cool rain in gaudy metal buildings with loud signs. They have taken over our roadways," Bartle said.

    Bartle said that although he anticipates shop owners covering the admission fee, he doesn't hold any illusions that these increases will shut down the industry.

    Same district and same party equals an opposite opinion from a fellow legislator.

    Rep. Bob Johnson (R-Jackson County) said that if the bill passes, it could be the end for these shops.

    "The true objective is not to raise revenue. The true objective, to my understanding, is to eliminate the industry," Johnson said.

    John Hawkins, owner of Eclectics in Columbia, said that in order to stay in business he will have to work extra hours. Hawkins said he will have to charge the five dollar fee to customers. If this causes a reduction in business, he will be forced to close.

    Bartle said that these stores have negative secondary effects including harm to minors, deterioration in property values and an increase in rape.

    Johnson says there is no proof for this.

    "I think it's just a smokescreen to trample the First Amendment rights in terms of business commercial free speech," he said.

    Bartle said the First Amendment is the reason the businesses will not be eliminated.

    "Courts will not allow states to outlaw these businesses. Some states have tried and courts have squarely said that the First Amendment will not allow states to do that," he said.

    However, Bartle said that Missouri is lagging in restrictions compared to other states. Bartle said since Missouri is behind the times, the industry is flocking here.

    "Missouri has become a hot bed for the porn industry," he said.