Anti-hotel porn legislation gets state House committee hearing today

Categories: Politics

We've been wondering how this "clean hotel" bill being shepherded through the Legislature would define the kind of pornography it aims to prevent state employees from seeing when they need lodging on the road. Turns out, it won't.

Instead, says Bob Tracy, a lobbyist with the Minnesota Coalition against Sexual Assault, Hoteliers will decide for themselves whether they want to offer guests pay-per-view channels that feature violent and degrading porn. If they don't, state employees can do business with them.

tarryl clark.jpg
Tarryl Clark
The House version, HF 3287, was introduced on March 1 by DFL Rep. Larry Haws, of St. Cloud. The House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee is set to take it up today.

DFL Sen. Tarryl Clark introduced the Senate version of the bill, SF 2861, in late February. It passed the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee last week.

Clark, the Senate's Assistant Majority Leader, is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 6th District this November. She says it's not about policing people's personal choices, "but taking another step in reducing sexual violence in our society."

Here's some key language from the House version of the bill, as amended for consideration today:

Constitutional officers, members of the legislature, an agency and its employees must ask if a facility is a preferred site and must use a preferred site when selecting lodging or facilities for state employees traveling on state business and when selecting facilities for conferences, meetings, education or training sessions, and similar events in Minnesota sponsored by state agencies unless:
  • A preferred site is not available to the employee traveling on state business within a reasonable distance from the location where the employee is conducting state business, or;
  • The cost of the preferred site exceeds the cost for comparable services at a non-preferred site.
"Preferred site" means lodging that can demonstrate, upon request, that it has adopted clean hotel policies and procedures;

"Clean hotel policies and procedures" means reasonable policies and procedures that eliminate within the facility the availability of sexually explicit work with depictions of sexual conduct that objectifies and exploits its subjects by eroticizing domination, degradation, or violence.

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Larry Haws
Those "reasonable policies and procedures" are key, Tracy says. Hotels with cable packages providing HBO, Showtime and other premium channels sometimes broadcast the kind of porn the bill outlines - but it's not their main fare. Providing such channels to customers would be a "reasonable" accommodation under the bill, he says.

The kind of porn the bill aims to stop is standard fare on pay-per-view channels. MNCASA hopes that by banning state employees from staying such hotels, it will prompt other organizations and individuals to follow suit, and make a business competition case for hoteliers to end or amend their pay-per-view contracts to keep violent porn out of their establishments.

"This is a public health approach to ending sexual violence," Donna Dunn, MNCASA's executive director, said in a statement. "It won't add cost to the state budget, but will allow state officials to use the dollars they have in a way that will advance the Minnesota Department of Health's five-year sexual violence prevention plan."

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