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Porn Tax Dead in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. – When the session started, legislators hoped to impose a special tax on sexually oriented businesses, but now they’re settling for rewriting the state’s anti-obscenity law and restricting such businesses’ highway signs.

The House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill making it easier to prosecute under the state’s anti-obscenity law by removing the phrase “sexually provocative aspect” from the definition of what materials are illegal. A final vote of approval expected Wednesday would send the bill to the Senate.

Otherwise, said Rep. Lance Kinzer, [pictured] the statute pretty much follows what the U.S. Supreme Court said constitutes obscenity in its 1972 landmark ruling on the issue. He said the problem is the court never mentioned “sexually provocative aspect.”

“The fact is that something can have a sexually provocative aspect without being obscene,” said Kinzer, R-Olathe.

He said the Kansas Supreme Court in the 1990s said the law needed to be changed to remove that phrase to make it more closely reflect what the nation’s highest court said was obscene. He said a Dickinson County case was thrown out because the judge felt the law was unenforceable.

“It will re-establish having an enforceable criminal statute in Kansas,” Kinzer said.

The House also gave first-round approval to an amended Senate bill that says no sign or other outdoor advertising for a sexually oriented business could be within a mile of any highway or interstate.

It’s similar to a bill by Sen. Tim Huelskamp that couldn’t make it out of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. If passed by the House, the measure would go to the Senate.

“I think we have the votes in the full Senate for this,” said Huelskamp, R-Fowler. “It’s good for children and families and sends a message that Kansas is a family friendly state.”

Under the proposal, a business within a mile of such roadways could post two signs – one no more than 40 square feet with the name, address, phone number and operating hours, and another noting the premises are off-limits to minors.

Signs already in place could remain for three years after the bill becomes law.

Many lawmakers wanted to push through a bill imposing a 10 percent tax on sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs, escort services and adult book stores. It was considered by the House Taxation Committee, which decided not to send the measure to the House for debate.

It was modeled in part on a 2004 Utah law imposing a 10 percent tax on admission fees, sales, food and drinks at sexually oriented businesses and a tax on escort services equal to 10 percent of the amount charged. The law currently is being challenged in court.

Chairman Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, said the measure will go to a study committee this summer with an eye toward having something ready for the 2007 session. He said the committee also wanted to see what happens with a legal challenge to the Utah law.

“Let’s stand back and see what we learn from the Utah litigation and be better informed next year,” Wilk said.

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