House debates ‘smutty’ billboards in Missouri

House Bills 946, 1106 and 952 would restrict billboards like this one on I-44.

House Bills 946, 1106 and 952 would restrict billboards like this one on I-44.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – House Bills 946, 1106 and 952 concerning transportation were discussed Feb. 24. Rep. Trent Skaggs (D-North Kansas City), introduced an amendment aimed at restricting billboards for adult stores that line highways and interstates in Missouri.

“Tri-State Billboard is the only company in the state that continues to produce these things,” Rep. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) said. “The Missouri Billboard Association is good about policing most of them, but I think this is good amendment.”

Rep. Curt Dougherty (D-Independence) accused Skaggs’ of proposing the amendment because of his religious beliefs.

“This is not about religious beliefs, this is about tourism,” Skaggs said.

He argued billboards advertising sex shops and cabarets were not something people who travel to Missouri want to be bombarded with on the highway.

Freedom of speech was what opponents of the amendment provide as proof that the billboards should stay.

“You really don’t have a choice when it is right there on the highway,” Skaggs said.

“It is not a matter of freedom of speech, you just don’t like it,” Rep. Dougherty said.

Billboards of the adult nature were argued to currently be legal in the state and that many of them were not obscene in nature.

“Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right,” said Rep. Dennis Wood (R-Kimberling City) .

It was brought to the attention of the House by Rep. Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon) that many billboards advertise discounts for commercial driver’s license or truck drivers.

“While we are discussing things of the smutty manner, there are a lot of weak men and when they stop to get petrol,” Davis said, “They see they can get a discount at girly stores they can do something they would not otherwise. Gas up and get your fill of girly shows.”

Davis said the proliferation of billboards was degrading to the men who drive through Missouri and was degrading to the state.

“Nothing will deteriorate the Missouri family faster,” Davis said.

Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin), an advocate for Missouri truck drivers, did not agree with Davis.

“I don’t think there is a higher percentage of truck drivers than anyone else visiting these establishments,” Hunter said.

“This is something going on in society that we have to debate. It is now becoming an issue.”

On Feb. 25 the House voted to include the amendment in the transportation bill and will place the bill on the calendar for perfection.