73-24: House passes CDA

Bi-partisan majority moves anti-crime bill one step closer to law.

In the House Judiciary Committee, the vote to recommend passage of Substitute Senate Bill 16, the Community Defense Act, was strictly a party-line vote.  Eight Republicans voted in favor; seven Democrats voted against it.

On the floor of the House Wednesday May 16, it again was apparent that well-connected lobbyists working for the strip club trade association had focused their efforts on Democrats.  In speeches prior to the vote, key Democrats called the bill unnecessary, irrelevant, even “absurd.”

But when the time came to publicly record their vote – a vote for or against a bill that would place two statewide regulations on sexually oriented businesses in Ohio and that would curb the flagrant prostitution and numerous other crimes linked to such businesses – 22 of those Democrats joined the Republican majority and voted to pass the bill.

The bill that they passed, Substitute Senate Bill 16, varies from the version of the bill brought to the Ohio Legislature by initiative petition.  Following are the bill’s three points:

  1. Instead of a requirement that employees who regularly appear nude or semi-nude maintain a six-foot distance from patrons whenever on the premises, the House passed-version calls for a simple no-touching rule whenever employees are nude or semi-nude.
  2. Hours of operation in the substitute bill are very close to the original language of CDA.  All sexually oriented businesses would be required to close between the hours of midnight and 6:00am with the exception that strip clubs, which also have a liquor license would be allowed to offer “semi-nude” (but not “nude”) entertainment until the closing time mandated by their liquor license.
  3. The House Judiciary Committee added one positive provision to the bill to further protect local governments that enact their own ordinances to zone, license and regulate sex businesses.  Last year the Legislature gave townships the authority to pass such ordinances and provided help from the Attorney General’s office in drafting the legislation.  The version of CDA passed by the House Wednesday would also provide indemnification for townships in the event such laws were challenged in court.

The bill passed by the House was not as strong as the version that petitioners brought to the General Assembly,” said CCV’s vice president of pubic policy, David Miller, “but it represents a giant step in the right direction, and it would go a long way toward curbing the crimes associated with such businesses.”

Said Miller, “The House Committee considering the bill wanted to make sure that they were sending to the floor – and then to the Governor – a bill every provision of which was not only Constitutionally sound, but that also was already in current case law and had been tested in federal court. And that’s what we have here.”

Before being sent to the Governor for signing, Substitute Senate Bill 16 must go to the Senate floor for approval of the House changes.  The Senate meets in session Tuesday, May 21.