Resolutions address the free expression clause of the Oregon Constitution

Georgene Rice interviews Representative Andy Olson, a sponsor of SJR28. The Resolution would amend the Constitution to allow local governments to exclude zoning regulations from the “free expression” clause when businesses or organizations offer services by a person in the “state of undress”. Local governments can define what nudity is, and gives them the right to zone where those kinds of facilities will be located.

Georgene: Why is this type of legislation necessary?

Andy: One of the key issues we need to focus on is that it makes sense not to allow nude dancing establishments to be co-located near a residential area or a school.

Georgene: There have been prior efforts to require that type of zoning and it has gone down in defeat. This would permit cities and counties to determine, for example, a safe distance between a school and a nude dancing establishment, or other establishment that they would define as inappropriate.

Andy: That is correct. I look at it as the “do not’s”, what SJR 28 does not do. It does not affect businesses offering books or other printed material or businesses offering movies. It applies only to services performed in person. It does not permit government to ban nude dancing or restrict nude dancing. It only allows them to establish rules where those businesses can operate.

Georgene: This requires an amendment to Oregon’s Constitution, which will ultimately require a vote of the people. What specifically are we changing?

Andy: Our Oregon Constitution is very broad when you compare it to the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution says “no law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion or restricting the right to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatsoever, but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.” Over the years, the courts have looked at that with a broad perspective. The only way we are going to give the courts a tool to view it properly is to get right to the heart of the constitution of this state and get it more in line with the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Constitution’s view on free speech.

Georgene: Most Oregonians may consider it absurd to think of nude dancing as a right of free speech, but that is what the courts have held. If the Oregon Constitution clarifies that this is an exception we will be able to say that this type of activity is tolerated in the state of Oregon, but it does not have to b e tolerated across from the school where kids are spending time. This seems like such a reasonable measure and is absolutely essential if any local jurisdictions are to have any tools to regulate where these facilities are going to be located.

Andy: As we talk about SJR28, we also need to take a look at the issue being discussed on the House side, HJR34. This resolution is a very simple little clause, but it goes right to the heart of furnishing sexually explicit material to a child under the age of 13.  In the past this law was stricken down by our 9th Circuit because they said it overstepped the boundaries of our constitution. The other statute deals with using sexually explicit material to groom a minor. So, both of these are seen as related to SJR28 because of what is happening with Article I, Section 8. The two resolutions go in a little bit of a different direction. One goes residential, protecting families. The other one goes with protecting children.

Georgene: SJR28 is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee. How does it look and what is the best way for folks in Oregon who support this legislation to communicate that with either members of the Senate Judiciary Committee or the Senators from their respective district?

Andy: Senator Mark Hass is one of the key sponsors of the bill. Representative Jeff Barker, a retired police officer is also a sponsor along with me. You can contact us. But, at this time, since it is still being considered on the Senate side, I’d send emails to all the Senators, telling them you are in favor of the Resolution. The Chair of the Senate Judiciary is Floyd Prozanski. He clearly believes that this is a concept that needs to be given to the voters to let them make a decision.

A hearing for SJR28 was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21. No votes at this time.
A hearing for HJR34 is scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee on April 1. No votes at this time.

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