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Ohio Strip Club Bill on Hold

Columbus – Senate leaders sidelined statewide strip-club restrictions Tuesday, angering Christian activists who argued the controls would curb crime and urban blight.

Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, said a sudden decision to hold off on the bill was not intended to penalize the bill’s chief proponent, Citizens for Community Values, but to review problem language.

During an intensive lobbying battle over the bill, Phil Burress, president of the Cincinnati-based advocacy group, vowed in an e-mail to supporters to run ads and launch primary challenges against Republicans who voted no. Harris said “what’s great about this country” is that anybody can run for office, even against those in their own party.

“But I’m very possessive, being the president of the Senate, of my members,” he said. “And when I feel my members are in the position of being challenged inappropriately, I want to make sure I stand up for them.”

Harris slowed down another bill Tuesday aimed at easing concerns from Christian and right-to-life groups, including CCV, about the Issue 1 bond package. He said there was little evidence that passing the bill, which would have restricted the use of money for stem-cell research, would affect the election’s outcome.

An angry Burress declined to comment on Harris’ actions – accusing Columbus lobbyist Neil Clark of exaggerating in The Plain Dealer and in complaints to the Ohio Elections Commission and Legislative Inspector General about personal contacts CCV members had with senators.

“This is not the way we operate!” he said in a news release.

He said he is considering a lawsuit against Clark, a Republican who represents the Buckeye Association of Club Executives.

Clark stood by the content of his complaints and said they were backed up with documentation.

Had the bill come up for a vote Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Marc Dann was prepared to offer a pair of satirical amendments echoing the bill’s restriction against dancers coming closer than six feet from patrons. One would have prevented rare-coin dealers from coming within six feet of the governor; a second would have kept lobbyists six feet from lawmakers.

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