Topeka A bill that includes tougher, statewide restrictions for strip clubs, adult video stores and shops selling sex toys won’t pass this year after the Senate blocked debate on it, according to Kansas legislators who support the measure.
The Senate voted 22-17 against a request from Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican, to pull the bill out of committee, where it has languished. The House approved the same legislation twice, and social and religious conservatives in both chambers have grown frustrated that it hasn’t moved in the Senate.
The proposed “Community Defense Act” would limit the hours and location of sexually oriented businesses, ban total nudity and impose a “no touch” rule for employees and customers. Strip clubs and adult cabarets still would be allowed to serve alcohol.
“I believe that there’s nothing to be done this year,” Abrams said later. “I don’t think there’s any way to pull it out of committee.”
Supporters contend the bill would prevent blight and crime and help small communities that want to keep out sexually oriented businesses but can’t afford to defend against legal challenges. The Jefferson County Commission faces a federal lawsuit over its denial of permit to a company that wanted to open a private adult club outside Meriden, a town of about 800 residents, about 10 miles northeast of Topeka.
“I think we’re done,” said House Federal and State Affairs Committee Steve Brunk, a Bel Aire Republican, whose panel sponsored the legislation.
Last year, the House passed similar legislation, and it failed in the Senate on a 20-20 vote. Critics contend that regulating sexually oriented businesses is best left to cities and counties, which can tailor rules to local conditions. A few also have mocked the bill’s supporters as obsessed with a relative handful of clubs, stores, and arcades when more than 100,000 Kansans remain unemployed.
“These communities have been able to regulate this industry over the last 40 to 50 years,” said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, who voted against pulling the bill from committee.
Supporters of the bill cite the lawsuit over Jefferson County’s decisions as an example of why legislation is necessary. Highway Four Properties, a partnership, filed it in March in U.S. District Court in Topeka, a month after the county commission refused to allow its club, which would have nude or semi-nude female dancers.
In recommending denial of Highway Four’s permit application, the zoning commission cited potential negative effects, such as an increase in law enforcement calls and drunken driving.
The company contends such fears are unfounded and that the county’s existing zoning rules — requiring a special permit for any sexually oriented business — restrict people’s free speech rights. The lawsuit argues that nude and semi-nude dancing are “expressive communication,” benefiting society by helping people consider issues of “sexual candor” and “contemporary concepts of physical attractiveness.”
Brunk said backers of the bill are trying prevent small communities such as Meriden from being “overrun” by the adult entertainment industry. He said Morris’ opposition to the bill is a key factor in its stalling in the Senate.
“Very much so, he has sided with the porn industry on this issue, not protecting those little towns,” Brunk said.
Morris dismissed such statements. He said senators offered House members compromises that they refused.
The proposed Community Defense Act’s restrictions would apply to a wide range of operations, including non-academic semi-nude modeling studios and “sexual encounter centers,” defined as business allowing patrons of the opposite sex to wrestle or tumble together semi-nude.
The measure would require sexually oriented 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. Semi-nude dancers at clubs would have to keep at least 6 feet away from customers.