Gov. Roemer Says 'No' to Record-Labeling Bill : Free speech issue: Louisiana chief executive says he vetoed measure on constitutional grounds.

From Associated Press

Gov. Buddy Roemer today vetoed a controversial bill that would have required warning labels on recordings that deal with potentially offensive topics such as drug abuse, sex and violence.

Roemer said threatened economic boycotts against the state didn't sway him. He vetoed the bill, he said, because it was an infringement on constitutionally protected free speech.

He said he hopes a voluntary labeling program being implemented by the recording industry will be successful and warned that the issue will return in Louisiana and other states if the industry's plan doesn't satisfy lawmakers.

"This issue will not go away," he said.

Although the bill passed both chambers with more than the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto, the Legislature is in recess and members would have to come back into session to override. No veto has been overridden this century.

The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, would have required warning labels on recordings that promote deviant sex, violence, drug abuse, suicide or child abuse. It also would have prohibited sale of such recordings to people under 17.

The aim was to protect children, but the bill didn't address the issue of having the same songs played on radio or television.

Passage of the bill brought loud protests from the music industry, with threats of canceled performances and bans against groups touring in the state. The Neville Brothers, favorite sons in Louisiana, called the bill racist. Among performers who wrote the governor were Patti LaBelle, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Dick Clark, Dr. John, Elton John and Judas Priest.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences had threatened to end consideration of New Orleans as a site for the Grammy Hall of Fame if the bill had become law. Music industry organizations threatened to cancel planned conventions in the city.

Radio stations had "label day" marathons to play nothing but records that disc jockeys thought would fall under the ban. Among them were such classics as "Stagger Lee," "House of the Rising Sun," "Love For Sale" and "Mack the Knife."

Under the bill, retailers, manufacturers and distributors would have been subject to jail terms and fines of up to $5,000.

In May, the recording industry unveiled a voluntary labeling system that it hoped would halt state campaigns for mandatory labeling. Industry spokesmen said every legislature except Louisiana's pulled back labelling bills while the voluntary program was tested.

The legislation would not have taken effect until 1992. Haik had said that if the recording industry implemented its voluntary program, he would push for repeal of the law.

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