Missouri legislature passes DWI, adult entertainment bills

Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 10:22 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — On the next-to-last day of this year's legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly sent to the governor's desk bills to toughen driving-while-intoxicated laws and impose stronger restrictions on the adult entertainment industry in the state.

As of Thursday, lawmakers had yet to agree on legislation regarding ethics reform and economic development — which were identified as priority issues for Gov. Jay Nixon and leaders in the legislature — as well as proposals to impose cost-saving measures and help balance the budget for the next fiscal year.

Pending final approval by Nixon, the DWI bill would extend jail sentences for offenders and create a central repository with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to track offenses across the state.

The legislature also passed a bill Thursday that would ban nudity in sexually oriented businesses and require the businesses to have a buffer of 1,000 feet between them and schools, libraries, churches or other sexually oriented businesses.

The House passed the bill 118-28, and the Senate concurred with that version, sending the measure to the governor's office.

The porn shop issue is tied to a federal grand jury investigation of former House Speaker Rod Jetton. The grand jury is investigating whether there was a connection between a campaign contribution from the porn shop industry and assignment of a similar bill when Jetton was speaker to a committee where the bill died.

Jetton has denied wrongdoing.

At the beginning of this year's session, sponsors of ethics legislation had cited the Jetton investigation along with the prison sentences of two former House members charged with federal crimes.

A scaled-downed version of the ethics bill got bogged down in language difficulties Thursday, delaying any final passage vote to the last day of the session.

The compromise version worked out by House and Senate leaders limits the measure largely to campaign finance issues by giving the Ethics Commission expanded authority to launch investigations, expanding contribution reporting requirements and prohibiting committee-to-committee transfer of funds.

Removed from the proposal are provisions limiting special interest funds in the governmental process.

Earlier versions of the bill would have banned lobbyist gifts to legislators, imposed a waiting period before a legislator could become a lobbyist after leaving office and prohibited a legislator from soliciting funds from colleagues for consulting.

The latter provision had been prompted by Jetton's campaign consulting business he established while serving as House speaker.  Several legislators hired Jetton's firm at the same time that had influence over their bills.

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