Politics & Government

Limits on sex businesses may not get Senate vote

TOPEKA — A bill approved Wednesday by the Kansas House to restrict strip clubs, adult video stores and other sexually oriented businesses might not get a vote this year in the Senate, where members haven't paid much attention to the issue and some are unenthusiastic about the idea.

The House vote was 91-28 on the proposed Community Defense Act, which supporters argue will protect communities from blight, increased crime and other problems they link to adult businesses.

The bill would limit the hours and location of such businesses, ban total nudity inside them and impose a "no touch" rule for employees and customers. But strip clubs and adult cabarets still would be allowed to serve alcohol.

Senators speculated Wednesday that a vote in their chamber on the legislation could be close, but they also said they haven't studied this year's legislation in detail. Their leaders wouldn't commit to having a committee hearing on the measure this year and acknowledged that the bill isn't as pressing a priority for them as it was for House members.

"Frankly, I don't know how much time there is to look into that bill," said Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg.

Senators' lack of enthusiasm means there is a good chance the bill will lay over for consideration next year. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, a strong supporter of the bill, expects public pressure to build on senators to act this year.

"It may be that once they begin hearing from their constituents, they'll think differently," Kinzer said.

Critics of the legislation have argued that regulation of sexually oriented businesses is best left to cities and counties. Backers of the bill say small, rural communities often lack the resources to resist such businesses, if the businesses are willing to challenge restrictions or zoning decisions in court.

The bill 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. Semi-nude dancers at clubs would have to keep at least 6 feet away from their customers.

The House approved a similar bill late in last year's session, but senators — who complained they hadn't had time to study it thoroughly and resented an attempt by supporters to bypass committee action — rejected it.

Legislators expect to adjourn this year's session by mid-May, but most committees are supposed to finish their work next week under legislative deadlines. And some senators see dealing with the state's financial problems a much higher priority than imposing state regulations on sexually oriented businesses.

"We still have to focus on how we try and dig ourselves out of a financial hole," said Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City. "The House has spent an excessive amount of time on this social issue that some of us in the Senate have yet to contemplate."