Kansas Lawmakers Want Porn Money (Again)

Kansas Lawmakers Want Porn Money (Again)

LOS ANGELES — The Sunflower State is at it again, as some Kansas lawmakers seek to legislate morality and grab a perceived tax windfall under the guise of working for the greater good.

Writing for The Topeka Capital-Journal, Tim Carpenter reported on a pair of bills introduced in the Kansas House last week that ostensibly seek to fund human trafficking initiatives by mandating default content blocking features on all new internet-capable devices sold in the state; and by imposing a sin tax on customers visiting adult-oriented businesses.

Rep. Randy Garber sponsored the legislation, similar to that introduced in other states, which would require adult consumers to pay a $20 state fee, as well as any fee the retailer would charge, for the privilege of using their device to view adult content.

Garber’s House Bill 2319 demands that “distributor[s] shall not manufacture, sell, offer for sale, lease or distribute to a consumer any product or service that makes content available accessible on the internet unless such product or service contains an active and operating technology protection measure.”

“It’s to protect children,” Garber stated. “What it would do is any X-rated pornography stuff would be filtered. It would be on all purchases going forward. Why wouldn’t anybody like this?”

Reasonable parents might agree, but the key to the true motive lies in Garber’s use of the word “obscene” — obscenity is a specific legal concept, while pornography is a constitutionally protected art form. Thus, while legislation to block obscene material may be lawful, allowing consumers to "legally" access such content would not be.

Garber should expect legal challenges and opposition from technology manufacturers and marketers as well as from free speech and consumer rights advocates and other groups over the plans that would, according to Carpenter, deposit revenues “in a fund controlled by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to reduce the incidence of human trafficking.”

Not all Kansas lawmakers are onboard, however. For his part, Rep. Tim Hodge acknowledges the great challenges of combatting human trafficking but wisely realizes that mandatory content filtering is not the answer to this problem.

“Part of being an adult is not legislating morality,” Hodge stated. “If Randy Garber wants to crawl into everybody’s bedroom, that is more creepy than the activity he is trying to prevent. I thought we still lived in America. We all took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”

One of the most troubling aspects of Garber’s schemes involves the apparent counseling that unlockers will receive to try to dissuade them from opening their device’s Pandora’s Box of porn, with a written warning “regarding the potential danger of deactivating the technology protection measure.”

Since the state has already jumped on the fake-science “porn is a public health crisis” bandwagon, it is easy to see where this is going.

In addition to his determined destruction of adult consumer choice on the internet, Garber continues to snuffle at the tax trough, sponsoring House Bill 2323, which places a $3 door charge on adult-oriented businesses such as strip clubs, bookstores, and theaters. The sin tax would be paid by businesses each month along with a report of the number of customers they received. Failure to comply can result in a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Another bill in the Kansas Senate would up the ante to a $5 fee per person.

Among those questioning the wisdom of the approach is Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence Executive Director Joyce Grover, who told Carpenter that while anti-human trafficking funding is lacking, the effort is being co-opted by opportunists seeking to advance a moral/political agenda.

Over the years, XBIZ has reported dozens of times when Kansas lawmakers have tried to take a bite from porn’s golden apple, including the state's 2005 efforts to impose a 20 percent “porn tax,” all while attempting to thwart the rights of citizens and legitimate business owners in the same greedy gulp. The state’s legislature is clearly seen by anti-porn activists as fertile ground for sowing the seeds of questionable pre-fab “boilerplate” legislation, such as the “$20 to unlock your device” effort.

In that context, Garber’s moves come as no surprise, but simply as a sad, misinformed and prejudicial attempt to conflate two wrongs (human trafficking and minors' access to adult content) in a stated hope that something right will come of it — but in the end, the only result of these efforts is censorship, squelching of free expression, and a step back for everyone’s rights.

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