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Kansas Going After XXX Stores

TOPEKA – Legislators worked on plans to ramp up punishments for the state’s sex offenders during the first few weeks of the session.

This week they’ve turned their attention to merchants who sell sexually explicit material or allow such activities as nude dancing.

Are the two linked? Yes, according to lawmakers hoping to crack down on “sexually oriented businesses.”

Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, introduced a bill Tuesday that would restrict the size and placement of signs for adult businesses such as strip clubs, bookstores and video shops.

On Friday, the House Tax Committee will debate the merits of a 10 percent excise tax – referred to as the ‘porn tax’ – on purchases.

The proceeds from the charge would off-set the costs of treating sex offenders in the corrections system, help sex crime victims and protect children from Internet predators.

One of the tax’s primary backers, Rep. Shari Weber, R-Herington, [pictured] said some of the state’s sex-crime problem could be linked to exposure to pornography and sexually explicit material.

“There’s a compelling state interest for the charge of an excise tax,” Weber said. When the tax idea first cropped up last year, adult businesses opposed it, saying it would violate constitutional guarantees to free speech and equal protection under the law.

They also disputed that there is a link between their businesses and sex crimes.

Three proponents, including Weber and Phil Cosby, plan to testify in favor of the bill at the hearing. Cosby has led a local effort to close the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore just off Interstate 70 near Abilene.

A Lion’s Den representative could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. No opponents were scheduled to testify as of Wednesday afternoon.

House Tax Chairman Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, could not be reached for comment.

Huelskamp’s bill would prohibit signs for adult businesses from being located within one mile of a state highway, unless the business is located within a mile of the highway.

It also would limit the businesses to two signs – one to warn away minors. The other sign could be no bigger than 40 square feet and could only contain the shop’s name, address, telephone number and operating hours.

Huelskamp said the new rules, modeled after similar regulations in Missouri, would help mitigate some of the “detrimental societal effects” that he said spring up from X-rated shops.

A hearing has not been set for the bill, which has been referred to the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

The bill stated it would the restrictions would improve traffic safety, limit harm to minors and reduce prostitution, crime, juvenile delinquency, deterioration in property values and lethargy in neighborhood improvement efforts.

“To me, it makes sense to talk about the signage,” Huelskamp said.

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