TOPEKA — Lawmakers pared down a bill Friday that would have banned lap dances and curtailed topless dancing in strip clubs across the state – and then they killed the bill altogether.
Originally, the bill aimed to protect women and curtail human trafficking by imposing strict new rules on strip clubs and adult bookstores.
But a House panel voted 13-8 to gut most of the bill, leaving only zoning restrictions in place that would have banned clubs from locating within 1,000 feet of an existing school, church, day care, public park, house or another sexually-oriented business.
Then the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, dominated by Republicans with some libertarian leanings, killed the bill altogether.
Similar proposals have made it out of committee in recent years, only to fail to gain traction in the Senate.
Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, said that essentially driving the clubs out of business could just make things worse for women who work there. He said that was the case when Missouri enacted similarly tough strip club laws.
“If the purpose of this bill is to protect women who work at these establishments, by regulating them to the point they go underground, we’re actually having the exact opposite effect,” he said.
He proposed limiting the new restrictions to just zoning to give smaller Kansas communities a state law to help them keep strip clubs out of some parts of their communities.
Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, said he was surprised the committee drastically changed, and then shot down, House Bill 2054.
Brunk said the specifics about where and how strippers can dance wasn’t that important to him but that Wichita police and prosecutors had told him strip clubs can be fronts for other criminal operations.
Strict new rules would give police more opportunities to check on the clubs and possibly uncover other crimes, he said.
“No matter how much they claim their businesses are pure as the driven snow, these places have many times have been fronts for human trafficking where girls … get caught up in this lifestyle,” he said.