Bill aimed at sexually oriented businesses remains in limbo

by Dennis SharkeyA bill that was a hot topic a year ago has cooled and the fate remains unclear.

House Bill 2107, otherwise known as the Community Defense Act, was passed with an overwhelming majority by the House of Representatives last year by a 96-23 vote. Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, R-Perry, was a yea vote on the bill.

The bill is designed to regulate the hours of operation and the inside configuration of sexually oriented businesses. The bill would also set distance requirements for clubs.

The final action on the House bill took so long that the Senate had about a week to consider the bill last year. The House did not take final action on the bill until April 29, 2011, during the final weeks of the session.

The bill was referred to the Senate committee on federal and state affairs on May 3. On May 4 the Senate moved to pull the bill out of the committee and move to the general calendar but the motion failed by a 22-17 vote. Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, was a yea vote.

Fast forward to the opening of the 2012 session and lawmakers say the issue is not at the front of important business.

“That’s one of the things that nobody has talked about,” Gonzalez said the week before the session opened.

Just over a year ago the topic dominated a Jefferson County Republican Central Committee meeting that was called to elect a state representative for the district. Gonzalez, the eventual winner, and other candidates were on the record in support of the bill.

Gonzalez said the party had met before the session started and the bill was not on the agenda the GOP in the House would like to see pushed forward.

Holland said before the 2012 session began that the Senate had addressed the bill twice without much success.

“There is not a desire in the Senate to take up the community defense act,” he said. “People have already voted at least twice if not once, plus there are so many other issues floating around.”

Holland said he supported the act because he heard a lot of feedback from constituents, especially from the Meriden area, who wanted to see the bill become law.

The initial version of the bill and the final product that reached the Senate had some noticeable differences such as a provision that would prohibit the sale of alcohol was struck and a provision was added to include property lines so that a club could not find a loophole around regulations.

Holland was involved in the discussions about the bill’s language and said some in the Senate did not believe the issue needed to be statewide.

“At the end of the day the more local control is the most appropriate,” he said. “I think a lot of times the state tries to do a one-size-fits-all type of thing and it doesn’t fit local situations.”

The bill also passed the 2010 Kansas House but failed by a 20-20 vote in the Senate.

Jefferson County Commissioners approved their own regulations that survived a legal challenge from owners of a club outside of Meriden. Eventually a settlement was reached.

Gonzalez said he supported a statewide bill because Jefferson County had to spend thousands of dollars on attorney fees. But Jefferson County can also serve as a model for other communities.

“It shows what the community thinks,” Gonzalez said. “It was one of the biggest events where the community was involved.”

Gonzalez believes that supporters of the bill do have some extra leverage if the issue returns. He sites a Missouri statute with similar language that survived a Missouri Supreme Court Challenge last year.

Currently the bill sits on the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs.

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Posted by on Jan 24 2012. Filed under Government, State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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