February 29, 2008

Bill to regulate pornography passes House, heads to Senate

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

While delivering property tax relief to Indiana residents remains the dominant issue at the state Capitol, one lawmaker is working to address another problem facing Indiana communities—the sale of pornographic materials.

State Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Crothersville), author of House Bill 1042, which passed the Indiana House of Representatives by an

88-5 vote, said, “This bill is in response to a situation in my district where a store gave residents the impression it would be selling books, movies and snacks. Instead, the store opened selling sexually graphic materials.

“Had the residents been notified, they could have petitioned to keep the retailer out.”

Rep. Goodin said he also has noticed an increase in the number of stores that sell pornography in rural areas, particularly on interstates which span several counties.

“The problem is the state of Indiana has a hodgepodge of zoning laws,” he said.

While many counties have ordinances to regulate this type of retailer, this legislation is geared toward those areas without county protection.

House Bill 1042 would require that a person or business intending to sell sexually explicit materials, products or services register and file a statement with the Secretary of State.

“This registering requirement triggers a mechanism to give the local municipalities the heads-up that this kind of business is getting ready to open up in their area,” Rep. Goodin said. The zoning board would be in a better position to take action to stop the business from opening, he added.

“This is a problem that has been fought across the United States,” Rep. Goodin said. “Once a business that sells pornography is open in a community, it is very difficult, to near impossible, to get it closed.”

Rep. Goodin said the Senate amended the proposal to improve the definition of sexually explicit, and made some technical corrections to strengthen the bill to stand up in court if it is challenged.

Rep. Goodin is not aware of any other state that has enacted legislation similar to his proposal, but said the concept for his bill was based on a summation of ideas given to him by constituents.

Rep. Goodin said he was excited about passage of the bill by a Senate committee, and is hopeful the full Senate will pass the bill when it gets to the floor.

Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford), Senate sponsor of the legislation, said the bill will help counties that don’t have any county zoning.

“What these shops do is they will find counties that don’t have any county zoning with an interstate running through it,” Sen. Steele said. “Then they set up shop there. Or if there is any zoning, it is very loosely written zoning so when the shop registers, it will just file as a ‘retail establishment.’

“What we say in the bill is, if you’re going to sell this stuff—which we can’t stop them from doing under the First Amend­ment—they have to register with the Secretary of State’s office.”

The filing fee is $250.

“There will be an actual declaration of the business’ intent to sell sexually explicit materials,” Sen. Steele said. “Then zoning boards and county commissioners will be able to keep apprised of these kinds of businesses.

“Right now, there is no way of knowing that these kinds of shops are starting up until after they are already open for business,” Sen. Steele said. “Hopefully, this bill will slow these people down or stop them entirely.”

House Bill 1042 provides that selling sexually explicit material, such as pornography, without proper registration could result in a Class B misdemeanor charge. A Class B misdemeanor charge can result in up to 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The bill will apply to businesses established after June 30, 2008, or to any existing business that moves to a new location. It is not retroactive to existing businesses that remain in the same location.

According to Top Ten Reviews, an Internet research company, the revenue generated from pornography in the United States in 2006 was $13.33 billion. The revenue generated from the sale of pornography by category includes video sales and rentals, $3.62 billion; Internet, $2.84 billion; cable, PPV (pay-per-view), in-room and mobile/phone sex, $2.19 billion; exotic dance clubs, $2 billion; novelties, $1.73 billion; magazines, $.95 billion.

House Bill 1042, which the Indiana Catholic Conference supports, was approved by the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters on Feb. 20 by a 6-0 vote.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for second and third reading. If the bill passes the Senate by Feb. 26, it will go back to the House for a concurrence on the Senate amendments to the bill.

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.) †

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