Predicting the Future: Concert Ratings Bill SB1100

by David R. Parvo

The Michigan State Senate is set to vote on the "concert ratings" bill, SB1100. The bill will be presented at a hearing of the Families, Mental Health and Human Services Committee, which is scheduled for Thursday, May 21, 1998. If this bill is passed by the committee, it will go to the Senate for a vote. SB1100 will allow each community to rate individual popular music concerts as "harmful to minors", resorting once again to that tired phrase. Each community will be allowed to decide, based on past shows and albums, whether anyone under 18 should be allowed to attend. The standards that each concert will be judged by is as follows: "Acts that are violent or destructive, limited to human or animal mutilation, dismemberment, murder, suicide, rape, torture, or illegal use of drugs . . . when considered as a whole, and in the context for which it is used, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors." The wording of this bill is highly ambiguous, it is reaching past defining "obscene" to judging what has merit and artistic value. Big Brother in the hatching stage, to say the least. If passed, this bill would be a serious infringement on the rights of musicians and the fans to freely express themselves. Other pro-censorship state senates are breathlessly waiting in anticipation the results of this vote. If SB1100 is passed, batten down the hatches, a flood of bills such as this will be introduced, maybe even in your state. This bill is extremely dangerous, far more so than labeling albums with parental warning stickers, for attempts to label a live concert delves into the realm of predicting the future, a scary thought.

SB1100 is the followup legislation to the resolution introduced by State Senator Dale Shugars and passed by the Michigan State Senate in the middle of 1997. That resolution was non- binding, which meant that venues can not be forced to comply. That resolution should have been warning enough, but now you can see that these legislators will not stop in their fight to revise the First Amendment to suit their own needs and viewpoint. If this bill is passed, a precedent will be established which will send this country down a slippery slope, a slope whose end will continue to recede from sight. If you say, "I am not from Michigan, it cannot impact me", think again, for legislators from around the country are anxiously anticipating the outcome of this bill. If SB1100 is passed, the light will turn green for the lawmakers in this country to push even more of that repressive "pro-family" bullshit down our throats, ramming it there until our bellies burst with legislation that continually violates the First Amendment and therefore the rights of all the citizens in the USA. WE MUST STOP THIS BILL NOW! Please contact not only the legislators and committee members from Michigan listed below, but also from your own states as well. This is really important...it is integral for freedom of expression in this country. Following the contact information is the text of SB1100. Read it and weep.

Senator Joel Gougeon, R, Chairman,
SenJGougeon@senate.state.mi.us
Post Office Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
(517) 373-1777
Fax: (517) 373-5871

Sen. Michael J. Bouchard
SenMBouchard@senate.state.mi.us
PO Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 373-2523
Fax: (517) 373-5669

Senator R. Robert Geake R
SenRGeake@senate.state.mi.us
Post Office Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
Telephone: (517) 373-1707
Fax: (517) 373-3935

Virgil C. Smith, Jr. D
SenVSmith@senate.state.mi.us
PO Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
Phone: (517) 373-7748
Fax: (517) 373-1387

Gary Peters, D SenGPeters@senate.state.mi.us
PO Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
Toll Free: 1-888- 2PETERS
Fax: (517) 373-2983

The text of Senate Bill No. 1100 is as follows:

SENATE BILL NO. 1100

May 5, 1998, Introduced by Senators SHUGARS, GEAKE and GOUGEON and referred to the Committee on Families, Mental Health and Human Services.

A bill to restrict the attendance of minors at certain music performances; to regulate the operation of certain music venues; and to prescribe penalties.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:

Sec. 1. As used in this act:

(a) "Harmful to minors" means any material that meets all of the following requirements:

(i) The average adult person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material, when considered as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors.

(ii) The material depicts or describes, in an explicit and patently offensive manner by prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors, any of the following:

(A) Ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated.

(B) Masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality, excretory functions, lewd exhibition of the genitals or genital area, sexually explicit conduct, sexual excitement, or sexually explicit nudity.

(C) Acts that are violent or destructive, including but not limited to human or animal mutilation, dismemberment, murder, suicide, rape, torture, or illegal use of drugs.

(iii) When considered as a whole, and in the context for which it is used, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

(b) "Minor" means an individual under the age of 18.

(c) "Music venue" means a commercial venue where live music performances are held.

Sec. 2. (1) The governing board of a city, village, or township may, by resolution, determine that a live performance at a music venue within the city, village, or township is harmful to minors. The determination shall be based on the performer's past performances or the performer's recordings. However, the governing board shall not approve a resolution described in this section if the owner or operator of the music venue or the performer submits to the board evidence of a contract between the owner or operator and the performer in which the performer has agreed not to perform any material that is harmful to minors.

(2) If the governing board of a city, village, or township approves a resolution under subsection (1) determining that a performance is harmful to minors and notifies the owner or operator of the music venue at least 30 days prior to the date of the performance, the owner or operator of the music venue shall comply with all of the following:

(a) A minor shall not be admitted to the performance unless accompanied by the minor's parent or guardian.

(b) Tickets that are sold for the performance shall contain a notice on the ticket that minors will not be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

(c) Print advertisements for the performance shall contain a notice that minors will not be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

(d) Electronic advertisements shall include a statement that minors will not be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Sec. 3. A person who violates this act is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

PLEASE LET EACH LEGISLATOR INOLVED KNOW WHY FREE EXPRESSION IS IMPORTANT TO YOU AND TO ALL MUSICIANS.

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