A Kansas legislative committee voted Friday morning to kill legislation that could have effectively banned strip clubs and lap dances in the state.
The state House Federal and State Affairs Committee used a voice vote to kill the measure, referred to as a ban by state legislators and designed to place zoning restrictions on where strip clubs could set up shop. The zoning restrictions included prohibiting strip clubs from within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, day care centers, libraries and churches.
The Friday vote to kill the bill came shortly after the same committee had amended the legislation, removing provisions that would have strictly regulated what happened inside strip clubs, effectively banning them from the state, according to legislators. The provisions also would have prohibited lap dances and semi-nude wrestling and tumbling. Committee members argued that even with the amendment that removed the provisions and preserved only the zoning restrictions, if the bill had passed, the full House of Representatives would likely have sought to reinstate the broader bans.
State Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee) told The Huffington Post that he voted against the final bill -- despite authoring the amendment that preserved the zoning restrictions -- because while he thinks local governments should have the authority to regulate zoning, he more broadly believes the government should not regulate business.
"I am of the belief that even though I may not support a business, it is not the government's job to regulate it out of existence," Hildabrand said.
He noted the bill originally had started as purely a zoning measure, following concerns in the town of Meriden regarding the location of a strip club. But then the bill had been introduced for several legislative sessions, continuing to take on more provisions -- though failing to pass -- until it became nearly identical to the bill Missouri lawmakers passed several years ago. That legislation effectively banned strip clubs in Missouri, and was upheld by the state's Supreme Court. The Kansas bill would have been retroactively applied to the currently existing strip clubs in the state.
State Rep. Emily Perry (D-Mission), a Democratic member of the GOP-dominated committee, said she agrees that the matter is not one to be resolved by the state government.
"I think the issue is one better left to local governments," Perry said.
Hildabrand said that another concern committee members had about the outright ban was the potential to push the stripping industry underground, which they believed could in turn lead to a rise in prostitution and drug use.
But State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina), a committee member who also voted against the bill, noted that there are roughly 25 strip clubs in Kansas, adding that it is "not a growth industry."
Claeys said that while those in favor of killing the legislation expressed their vote quietly, those who wanted to preserve it expressed their "no" votes loudly. The vote was a difficult one for lawmakers, Claeys said, because it pitted the issues of the role of government against issues of morality.
The original legislation (Disclaimer: explicit language) had included a series of bans, such as proposals on the exact size of strip clubs and where strippers themselves could be located within an establishment. It also banned semi-nude strippers from touching club goers or their clothing, meaning, no more lap dances. Videos of stripping would be allowed, provided that the viewing room was large enough and in full view of an establishment's manager. A strip club in Missouri used a similar provision to show videos of dancers stripping, instead of live performances.
The bill also included detailed descriptions of nudity and semi-nudity, along with lists of sex toys that would not be able to be used in businesses. Further, it banned opposite-sex, semi-nude wrestling or tumbling, which would mean no more pudding, mud and Jello wrestling in the state.
The bill did not ban such practices for same-sex pairs.
In February, strippers were among those to testify to the committee about the legislation, which lawmakers expect to return in 2015, despite the measure being killed Friday.
Claeys noted that the bill has been an education for him in his first year in the legislature.
"Being a freshman legislator and watching the process take place was an enlightening experience," he said, joking about the earlier vote, "We did not get into pudding wrestling today."