Even in a state as conservative as Texas, big government just can’t seem to keep its hands off of the little guy (or gal).
Representative Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) has proposed a bill that would require employees of “sexually oriented businesses”—i.e. what all we non-bureaucrats call “strip clubs”—to be licensed to perform.
The bill, if passed, would require a performer at a “sexually-oriented business” to be certified in much the same way as a bartender is with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or in the same way that a restaurant employee must have a state-issued food handlers’ permit. Both of these certifications require applicants to undertake state-approved instruction. TMDailyPost can’t help but wonder: Will Texas be offering state-approved dance lessons?
Probably not. The bill, HB 337, stipulates that all owners, employees, and private contractors for such businesses be required to complete a course on “human trafficking awareness and reporting procedures.” On his Facebook page, Zedler said:
It is not the intent of HB 337 to persecute or shame individuals who choose to maintain a sexually-oriented profession, but simply to verify that all those involved are legal adults doing so consensually, and not under the constraint of others.
Previously Zedler said he hopes the bill will “clean up the profession.” HB 337 isn’t out of line from his previous social campaigning. Before being elected to the state legislature in 2003, Zedler gained public attention trying to block the construction of a Hooters restaurant in his neighborhood, wrote the Dallas Observer. What may be a chivalrous crusade to Zedler seems like government trying to legislate morality to others. A dancer in Houston named Jane (not her real name) told Rachel Krantz from the Daily Beast:
[It] sounds like paternalistic government to me. I think they’re trying to discourage women from entering this line of work. To me, it feels like slut-shaming. Law enforcement thinks these girls are sluts, and they’re trying to embarrass them by trying to get them to register as official sluts.
Being registered in an official database does worry some women. Jane said that she does not want her permanent record to include the time she spent working as an exotic dancer.
The Department of State Health Services, which will be responsible for licensing and monitoring these businesses, is given an unspecified amount of authority under Zedler’s bill. Section 2158.105 of the bill states that sexually oriented businesses must meet “any other requirements approved by” the DSHS. The certifications granted by the DSHS would have to be prominently displayed in said businesses and license holders would have to renew their certification every two years for an unspecified fee.
Zedler hasn’t offered any evidence that there is a problem with human trafficking in Texas strip clubs, or the adult bookstores, massage parlors, and “nonsexual nudist camps” that may have inspired the bill. He did, however, confess to going to a strip club when he was in college, wrote the Houston Chronicle. “It was strictly a deal where they would get up and dance. There was no touching or nothing like that,” said Zedler. “There was no complete nudity.” Perhaps Zedler is just too squeamish for what goes on in “gentlemen’s clubs” these days.