State Representative Bill Zedler first gained attention about a decade ago, when he led a grassroots crusade to block a Hooters from opening near his neighborhood in Arlington. To a certain extent, this was a classic case of not-in-my-backyard activism in which neighbors unite against an unwanted business, but Zedler at least was a true believer, puritanical in his opposition to what is by all measure a tame, if a bit tacky, breastaurant, claiming it would serve as a magnet for sexual predators.
Zedler hasn't softened his views since his election to the Texas Legislature in 2003, using his new-found clout to continue the fight against Hooters while expanding his focus to battle strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses.
His latest salvo came yesterday, when Zedler filed HB 337, which would put additional restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. Under the bill, many of the specifics would be left up the the Texas Department of State Health Services, but this much is spelled out: Adult entertainers would need a license to strip.
This isn't an entirely new concept. The state of New York considered a similar measure several years ago. And Alabama apparently passed one. A quick Google search indicates that several cities have such rules in place as well.
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But Zedler's bill doesn't stop there. Dancers -- and strip club owners and other employees -- would be required to "conspicuously display the person 's license on his or her person when conducting business at the sexually oriented business." Surprisingly, Zedler does not specify where the permit must be displayed, though his hope is undoubtedly that it will be large enough to cover the naughty parts.
The bill's stated purpose is to prevent human trafficking and protect public health. Short of establishing a large, expensive TABC-style agency to regulate strippers, it's hard to see how issuing licenses will have any impact on any of those things. More likely, it will be used as a pretext for hassling businesses Zedler disapproves of. There's even a vague provision allowing a three-person DSHS committee to shut down a strip club if it determines it to be a continuing threat to "public health or welfare."
By now you're probably worrying what this will mean for that nonsexual nudist camp you frequent, but you needn't fret. The bill carves out an exemption for those, as well as colleges and art schools so long as they stick to a single nude model. Then there's the fact that the bill is being proposed by Bill Zedler, whose ideas tend to be too extreme even for the Texas Legislature.
"Bill Zedler is a goofball," Texas Monthly's Paul Burka put it once on his blog. "There's no other way to put it. He contributes nothing except to provide occasional comic relief."