A bill filed in the Missouri House of Representative has caused comment, controversy and widespread media coverage not only in Southwest Missouri but across the nation. 160th Missouri State Representative Ben Baker (R), Neosho, introduced Bill 2044 to the House earlier this month. The bill - a portion of which is called "The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act" - would, if passed, establish some guidelines and controls over what materials may be available.
An interview with Baker will appear in a separate story in this edition.
We also contacted Carrie Cline, Library Director of the Neosho-Newton County Library. That story also appears in today's edition.
For our readers, we present the section of House Bill 2044 that refers to "The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act":
182.821. 1. This section shall be known and may be cited as the "Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act".
2. As used in this section, the following terms mean:
(1) "Age-inappropriate sexual material", any description or representation, in any form, of nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, that:
(a) Taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors;
(b) Is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is appropriate material for minors; and
(c) Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors;
(2) "Geographical area", any village, town, city, county, library district, or other area with established boundaries in which a library is established or for which a library is established to provide library services;
(3) "Public library", any library that receives state aid under section 181.060 and that provides public access to age-inappropriate sexual material.
3. Each public library shall establish a parental library review board as provided in this subsection.
(1) At least thirty calendar days before the election of a board under this subsection, the governing body of the public library shall notify all qualified voters residing within the library's geographical area that an election for members of the library's parental library review board will be held at a regularly convened hearing of the village, town, city, or county in which the majority of the library's geographical area lies. At such hearing, the qualified voters present shall elect the members of the board by a majority vote. The five individuals receiving the highest number of votes cast by the qualified voters present shall be members of the board.
(2) The board shall be composed of five adult residents of the public library's geographical area. Each board member shall serve a term of two years. Any vacancy shall be filled in the same manner in which the member was initially elected, except that if a member vacates the office before the end of the member's term, the vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term only. No member of the board shall receive any compensation for any actions related to fulfilling board duties. No member of the board shall be an employee of the library, the state, or any political subdivision thereof.
(3) (a) The board shall determine whether any sexual material provided to the public by the public library is age-inappropriate sexual material. To make such determinations, the board shall convene public hearings at which members of the
HB 2044 4
37. 37 community may present concerns to the board. After receiving comments from the public,
38. 38 the board shall examine individual instances of the questioned sexual material to determine
39. 39 whether it is age-inappropriate sexual material under this section.
40. 40 (b) The board may order any material deemed to be age-inappropriate sexual
41. 41 material to be removed from public access by minors at the public library.
42. 42 (c) Any such determination or order made by the board shall be the final
43. 43 determination or order on such materials, and shall not be subject to any review by the
44. 44 governing body of the public library, the state, or any political subdivision thereof. This
45. 45 subdivision shall not be construed to prohibit judicial review of any determination or order
46. 46 made by the board under this section.
47. 47 4. Each public library shall, on or before June thirtieth of each year, verify
48. 48 compliance with this section on any form created by the board. After such compliance is
49. 49 verified, the library shall post the verification in a conspicuous place for public viewing at
50. 50 the library.
51. 51 5. Any public library personnel who willfully neglects or refuses to perform any
52. 52 duty imposed on a public library under this section, or who willfully violates any provision
53. 53 of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punished by a fine of
54. 54 not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one
55. 55 year.