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Louisiana Governor Unsure of Record Labeling Bill’s Constitutionality With PM-Record

July 10, 1990

Louisiana Governor Unsure of Record Labeling Bill’s Constitutionality With PM-Record Labeling, Bjt

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A bill requiring the music industry to label records with questionable lyrics, and not sell such records to minors, may not be constitutional, Gov. Buddy Roemer said.

Roemer said he favors warning labels for recordings with themes of rape, murder, suicide, incest, illegal drug use, child abuse and satanic worship, but would prefer that the industry adopt a voluntary program.

The governor said he did not know whether he would sign the measure, which also bans the sale of labeled records to minors.

Although the labeling bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with more than the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto, the legislative session ended Monday night and a veto would kill it until the next session, which begins in April. Roemer has 20 days to decide on the bill after it reaches his desk.

Roemer told a news conference Monday that serious legal questions about the bill’s constitutionality had to be balanced against concerns about the content of some recordings.

Most of the industry was acting responsibly, but ″some portions of the industry produce pure trash,″ he said. ″Parents don’t know that until they are brought home and played.″

Roemer said he preferred a voluntary program, similar to the ratings system adopted by the movie industry.

″We’ll all be better off,″ he said.

Under the legislation, record manufacturers would be required to label recordings with objectionable lyrics. Retailers would be subject to misdemeanor criminal penalties for selling labeled recordings to those under 17.

In May, the recording industry unveiled a voluntary labeling system aimed at halting state campaigns for mandatory labeling. Industry spokesmen said every legislature except Louisiana’s pulled back their bills while the voluntary program was tested.

The voluntary program went into effect this month, and labeled recordings already are showing up in stores, said Mike Cutshaw, an attorney representing the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.

Last week, Capitol Records promised to provide legal help to store operators who are threatened with arrest for selling its recordings that bear labels warning consumers of sexually explicit lyrics.

The producers of the Grammy Awards show have said such a law would scuttle Louisiana’s chances of playing host to the event. Also, backers of a proposed Grammy Hall of Fame in New Orleans say the law would end their project and cost the city $100 million a year.

The legislation would not take effect until 1992. Rep. Ted Haik, the bill’s sponsor, has said that if the industry implements its voluntary program, he would push for repeal of the law.

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