Kan. Lawmaker Seeks to Tax Adult Businesses

Michael Hayes
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In what appears to be a growing legislative trend to regulate brick-and-mortar adult stores, a lawmaker in Kansas has said he plans to introduce a bill that would require adult-oriented businesses to apply for an occupation license and pay a special tax.

State Rep. Lance Kinzer said his bill, which he plans to introduce early in next year’s legislative session, will need to be carefully worded to clear what he called “legal technicalities.”

Kinzer’s plan to regulate adult businesses via taxation is part of a larger, nationwide legislative effort to put more power in the hands of local governments, according to Missouri state Sen. Matt Bartle, who is working on similar legislation.

“That’s exactly the direction we’re going,” Bartle said. “We’re going to empower local governments to come up with a licensing fee that bears some relationship with the costs associated with regulating these smut shops.”

Bartle, who recently saw the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals strike down his sponsored bill to regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses, said court battles come with the territory.

“When you are trying to regulate smut shops, you understand that the legislative work is only step one and then after that, you’re going to have to battle in court,” Bartle said.

According to Phillip Cosby of the Kansas City office of the national Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, the growing public awareness of sexual predator issues has fueled interest in anti-pornography campaigns. Cosby said there is a link between sex crimes and pornography, which gives local governments a compelling interest in taxing adult businesses differently than other businesses.

Free Speech Coalition Executive Director Diane Duke said taxes on sexually oriented businesses infringe on 1st Amendment rights.

“In our case, you’re taxing free speech,” she said. “That’s where a big line needs to be drawn.”

Similar efforts across the country have encountered legal resistance. A bill introduced two years ago to tax adult entertainment in Utah is currently wending its way through the courts.