House seeks to force Senate to comply with anti-smut bill

TOPEKA — A day after forcing the Senate to take up an abortion clinic bill, the House turned to the same parliamentary maneuver today to try to make the Senate crack down on sexually oriented businesses.

On an overwhelming voice vote, representatives sent House Substitute for Senate Bill 25 across the hallway to the other chamber. The bill is identical to House Bill 2107, which passed the House earlier this session and is now stalled in committee in the Senate.

Because the House replaced the language in a bill that originated in the Senate, any senator can now bring the bill to a floor vote. The House used the same tactic Wednesday to force a vote on abortion clinic restrictions that were stuck in the Senate.

Several conservative members of the House said they want to force senators to either agree to House-proposed restrictions on adult businesses, or take a politically risky vote that can be portrayed as support for pornography and strip clubs in the 2012 election.

Donohoe

“There’s another vote out there, OK, and that vote is coming at election time,” said Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee. “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.”

“We are negotiating with ourselves to say, ‘I don’t want to be too conservative because this isn’t going to get past the Senate so we won’t get something accomplished,’” Donohoe added. “I guarantee you we could get something accomplished. We can get people (senators) replaced.”

The Senate has resisted similar measures several times over the past three years, saying that it would kill 2,000 jobs, potentially expose the state to expensive litigation and over-ride local control.

Opponents outside the Legislature have criticized the House for spending lawmakers’ time on issues such as the height of strip-club stages, instead of jobs, the economy and the state’s $500 million deficit.

Morris

The House tactic carries some risk. If the bill is raised to a Senate floor vote and rejected, it will be dead for the session and won’t make it to a conference committee where a compromise could be negotiated, said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

He said the bill in its current form hasn’t gotten traction in the Senate before and he doubts it will now without any changes by the House.

Morris could also declare the bill to be “substantially altered” from its original form — the orginal SB 25 was about drinking at public events — and send it back to committee.

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 another adult business.

– Prohibit nude or topless dancing and require a six-foot separation between performers and patrons.

– Ban private video viewing booths.

– 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.

Gregory

Rep. TerryLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, previewed the House’s public-shame tactic in an exchange with Majority Whip Willie Prescott, R-Osage City.

Prescott proposed an amendment to try to gain Senate approval by keeping the distance restrictions in the bill without curtailing activities inside the businesses.

“The little private (video viewing) rooms on the inside, what goes on in those rooms? Why do they need them?” Gregory asked.

“There again, I’ve never been in one, I don’t have any idea,” Prescott replied. “I’m sorry. I can imagine, but I really don’t know.”

“What would you imagine?” she persisted, provoking laughter from the representatives and the audience.

“Bingo,” Prescott answered, sarcastically, provoking more laughter.

“I find it interesting that inside of a private room, there’s a need for a roll of toilet paper and hand towels,” Gregory continued. “Now why would that need to be there unless it was to wipe something off?”

Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, said compromise would open the state to a variety of ills beyond people watching dancers or video.

“Everything that goes on in this flesh industry is inter-related — whether it’s legal or illegal — and I think it’s important we know this,” Knox said. “This is not just another industry. This is pornography, stripping, prostitution, human trafficking, sexual slavery, with children involved, and it’s all interlinked.”

PrescottPrescott said he thinks such decisions are better left to the local communities and cited a current flap over a strip club near Meriden.

“As of this week … county commissioners in Jeff(erson) County passed rules and regulations much much stiffer than these we have before us today,” Prescott said. “It did prove that local government can react and has reacted. Over 20 years ago in my home county of Osage County, we had a similar problem with massage parlors. … We zoned the problems that we saw out and it hasn’t been a problem since.”

He said it makes more sense to cooperate with the Senate and get a bill passed.

“I’ve been here three years,” he said. “We’ve seen this bill multiple times in those three years. There’s many parts of this bill that I am very much in favor of. I in no way endorse, condone any illegal activities that may be listed and spoken about, but we have not curtailed anything as of yet.”