Topeka Kansas legislators approved two bills Wednesday aimed at the strip club industry and protecting victims of child pornography.
One bill, approved by the House on a 106-16 vote, would place restrictions on the location of strip clubs and their activities. The sponsors said it cleans up activities viewed as immoral in their communities.
Rep. Joe Patton, a Topeka Republican, said he had questioned whether the state should be involved in regulating sexually oriented businesses until he read numerous studies about their effects on communities.
“All the studies showed this hurts communities, increases crime, hurts property values,” Patton said. “If you want to do this kind of work, do it in a way that doesn’t destroy our communities — that’s the whole point.”
The bill would prohibit strip clubs, adult stores and other sexually oriented businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of schools, libraries, public parks, licensed day-care centers and houses of worship.
Sexually oriented businesses would have to close from midnight to 6 a.m. Nudity would be outlawed, and dancers could be seminude but would have to remain at least 6 feet away from patrons.
Some critics of the bill said the measure would shut down such businesses and put at least 2,500 Kansans out of work.
But Patton said the bill only imposes “narrow” regulations and prevents sexually oriented businesses — called “SOBs” by the measure’s backers — from clustering in communities.
“They tend to do that,” Patton said. “They create an economic dead zone. When crime goes up, they create a combat zone.”
But Rep. Stan Frownfelter, a Kansas City Democrat who voted against the bill, said Kansans have a better way than the bill to get rid of sexually oriented businesses.
“If people don’t want to go, they don’t have to go,” he said. “The best way to run them out of business is not to go to them.”
Senators, meanwhile, adopted a bill on a 39-0 vote that would allow victims of child pornography to file civil lawsuits to recover up to $150,000 in damages. The lawsuits could be filed by private attorneys or by the attorney general at the victim’s request.
To file a suit, a victim would have to allege and prove that while they were under 18 they were the victim of a sexual offense and that a portion of the offense was used in the production of child pornography. The victim also would have to prove that they suffer personal or psychological injury as a result of the production, promotion or possession of such child pornography.
A Kansas City Democrat, Sen. David Haley, abstained from voting on the measure, saying unintended consequences are likely being overlooked.
For example, Haley said teenagers have started sending each other lewd photographs of each other by texting, or sexting. He is concerned the exchange of these photos could be considered child pornography among consenting couples and lead to litigation.