TOPEKA — In a vote that could foreshadow campaign postcards of 2012, state senators today almost certainly killed a bill designed to drive sexually oriented businesses out of business.
By a vote of 22-17, the senators opted not to pull the “Community Defense Act” out of a committee that had voted down an identical measure earlier this year.
Among its major provisions, the bill would:
– Prevent new sexually oriented businesses from locating within 1,000 feet — property line to property line — of any home, school, church, park, library or other adult business.
– Prohibit nude or topless dancing and require a six-foot separation between performers and patrons.
– Ban private video viewing booths.
– Require operators to constantly monitor their customers.
– Require adult-oriented businesses to be closed from midnight to 6 a.m.
Businesses affected would include strip clubs, adult bookstores and shops selling sex toys. Both sides acknowledge that it would be difficult to impossible for the businesses to operate under the proposed restrictions.
The House had put the language of the act into an old Senate bill, which forced the senators to take today’s vote — though even the measure’s most ardent supporters acknowledged it had little to no chance of passing.
Because Senate President Steve Morris had declared the bill “materially altered” from what the Senate originally passed, Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, needed 24 votes to bring the bill out of committee for a floor vote.
He said he was disappointed to fall seven votes short on the measure, which fell last year on a 20-20 Senate tie.
Today’s vote keeps the bill in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which is not scheduled to meet between now and the end of the current session.
Asked if he had any more options to try to force a floor debate, Abrams said “I’m not aware of any for this year.”
He said he tried to bring the bill to the floor because he feels it would battle negative impacts that happen around adult businesses. He said studies show a correlation between the presence of adult-oriented business and increased rates of prostitution and other sex crimes, assaults, thefts and family breakups.
Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said the committee rejected the bill for two main reasons:
First, he said, “it’s an impostion of state zoning, which is a local issue.”
And second, he said, “It’s an attempt by some to impose their version of morality on everybody, which I don’t approve of … this is America.”
In House debate last week, several representatives said they wanted to put senators in the position of having to agree to the House’s restrictions on adult businesses or take a politically risky vote that could be portrayed in campaign ads as supporting pornography.
“What I want to see is every senator who will not bring this out … have to run against that when they’re up for re-election, OK,” Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, said last week.
Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, shepherded the bill through the House, but missed last week’s debate because he was out of state attending the birth of his twin grandchildren.
He acknowledged that sending it to the Senate in another bill would be futile.
Asked about the comments on using today’s vote as a campaign wedge issue against senators, he said: “I don’t know that they should expect it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if responsible Kansans in the state want to hold their senators accountable.”