Topeka — Restrictions on strip clubs, stores that sell sex toys and other adult businesses in Kansas won first-round approval Tuesday in the state House, even though critics told majority Republicans they were drifting away from their party’s small-government position.
The bill, advanced on a voice vote, contains the proposed Community Defense Act, statewide limits on the locations and hours of operation of adult businesses. The House expects to take final action today, and both sides expect the measure to pass and go to the Senate.
The legislation would require adult businesses to remain closed from midnight to 6 a.m. and prohibit new businesses within 1,000 feet of the property line of existing similar businesses or any school, library, day care center or house of worship. There would be a “no touch” rule for employees and customers, but strip clubs and adult cabarets could still serve alcohol. Semi-nude dancers at clubs would have to keep at least 6 feet away from their customers.
Supporters of the bill said they’re trying to protect Kansans from any damage to communities from adult businesses, which they said include blight, lower property values and higher crime. They said small communities often can’t afford to resist adult businesses that are willing to file lawsuits to challenge local restrictions or adverse zoning decisions.
“This bill protects the rural, low-population areas, very much like my district, that don’t have resources to fight this battle in court,” said Rep. Forrest Knox, an Altoona Republican.
Many critics have argued the bill isn’t necessary and that the regulation of adult businesses is best left to cities and counties. But during Tuesday’s debate, they tried to appeal to Republicans, whose 92-33 majority in the House includes many conservatives who have argued that government is too intrusive and needs to lessen its regulation of private businesses.
Rep. Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican and longtime Baptist pastor, said he doesn’t like adult businesses but is wary of the bill.
“I listen to the principles of the Republican Party, which are smaller government, no mandates, local control, choices,” he said.
Knox acknowledged that he’s spoken often in favor of a smaller, less intrusive government and even has said, “We don’t need government to be our mama.”
“But there’s another American principle that’s just as important,” he said. “It’s traditional family values.”
The House approved a similar bill last year. But in the Senate, where members complained they didn’t have enough time to adequately study the measure, the vote was 20-20.