JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's strip clubs and adult stores will need to keep their employees partially clad, minors out and doors closed after midnight under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The new restrictions ban full nudity, alcohol, anyone younger than 18 and touching between semi-nude employees and customers at sexually oriented businesses. The law also requires the stores and clubs to close before midnight and prevents new adult businesses from opening near homes or schools.
Supporters of the regulations contend that such businesses contribute to seedy behavior, demean women, drive down property value and even cause divorces. But critics said the restrictions infringe on the free market, cut into local control and could hurt the state's economy by forcing businesses to close.
The new rules take effect Aug. 28 and apply to strip clubs, adult video and book stores, semi-nude model studios and other related businesses.
The bill was among several signed by Nixon on Friday. Two others seek to trim costs from the state Medicaid plan and one allows pregnant women to use deadly force to protect their unborn children.
Lawmakers have tried several times in recent years to regulate sexually oriented businesses. A 2004 law restricting highway billboards was struck down by a federal appeals court, and legislation passed in 2005 was declared unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court because the regulations were added to an unrelated bill.
The 2005 legislation developed a new wrinkle because a federal grand jury has investigated whether political contributions from the adult entertainment industry affected how the bill was handled in the House. No charges have been brought.
Sponsoring Sen. Matt Bartle, who also handled the 2005 legislation, said the federal investigation helped get this year's bill through. Bartle, a Republican from Lee's Summit, testified before the grand jury in February and said he believed there was a link between campaign donations from the businesses and the way House leaders handled the 2005 bill.
Under the new regulations, semi-nude employees will be required to remain on a stage at least 18 inches high and at least 6 feet from customers in a room of at least 600 square feet. New sexually oriented businesses will be prohibited from locating within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, churches, libraries, parks or day care centers.
Businesses will have 180 days after the law takes effect to comply with the stage and building requirements. Those that do not could face misdemeanor charges punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail for each day a violation exists.
Under another bill signed by Nixon on Friday, the governor's office expects to save nearly $19 million per year by allowing the Department of Health and Senior Services to permit independent contractors to assess whether disabled people qualify for in-home care services.
Providers will eventually use a telephone-based time clock to ensure they are not paid for more hours than they work.
In-home care providers help disabled residents bathe, cook, clean and perform other daily activities. Some critics fear the changes could make it more difficult for people to remain at home instead of nursing homes.