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Kansas legislators who want tougher restrictions on sexually oriented businesses were trying Wednesday to revive a bill in the Senate regulating strip clubs, shops that sell sex toys and adult video stores and arcades.
The Senate planned to vote on a request from Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican, to move the bill from committee, where it has languished. The House has already approved the same legislation twice, and social and religious conservatives in both chambers have grown frustrated that it isn't moving in the Senate.
The proposed "Community Defense Act" would limit the hours and location of sexually oriented 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.
Supporters contend the bill would prevent blight and crime and help small communities that want to keep out sexually oriented businesses but can't afford to defend against legal challenges. The Jefferson County Commission faces a federal lawsuit over its denial of permit to a company that wanted to open a private adult club outside Meriden, a town of about 800 residents, about 10 miles northeast of Topeka.
The Senate's rules require Abrams and other supporters to get 24 of 40 votes to remove the bill from the Federal and State Affairs Committee. If they fail, the measure will remain there.
"This is an important piece of legislation for many people in the state of Kansas," Abrams said in making his request. "The state has a vested right to regulate sexually oriented businesses."
Last year, the House passed similar legislation, and it failed in the Senate on a 20-20 vote. Critics contend that regulating sexually oriented businesses is best left to cities and counties, which can tailor rules to local conditions. A few also have mocked the bill's supporters as obsessed with a relative handful of clubs, stores, and arcades when more than 100,000 Kansans remain unemployed.
"Communities themselves have been handling this for decades," said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican.
Supporters of the bill cite the lawsuit over Jefferson County's decisions as an example of why legislation is necessary. Highway Four Properties, a partnership, filed it in March in U.S. District Court in Topeka, a month after the county commission refused to allow its club, which would have nude or semi-nude female dancers.
In recommending denial of Highway Four's permit application, the zoning commission cited potential negative effects, such as an increase in law enforcement calls and drunken driving.
The company contends such fears are unfounded and that the county's existing zoning rules -- requiring a special permit for any sexually oriented business -- restrict people's free speech rights. The lawsuit argues that nude and semi-nude dancing are "expressive communication," benefiting society by helping people consider issues of "sexual candor" and "contemporary concepts of physical attractiveness."
The proposed Community Defense Act's restrictions would apply to a wide range of operations, including non-academic semi-nude modeling studios and "sexual encounter centers," defined as business allowing patrons of the opposite sex to wrestle or tumble together semi-nude.
The measure would require sexually oriented 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 customers.