Recording industry representatives warned taxpayers will be paying legal fees for rock stars if the Legislature restricts kids’ access to music.
Bring on the lawyers, responded several lawmakers who want to make it a crime to expose kids to videos, movies, musical recordings, theatrical productions, books or magazines that appeal to their prurient interests.
Supporters of Senate Bill 5466 at a Senate Law and Justice Committee hearing Thursday said they’d be happy to pay lawyer fees to help keep kids’ minds pure.
The goal is to keep pornography away from children, said Sen. Adam Smith (D-Kent), sponsor of the bill that would make it a gross misdemeanor to give kids material deemed naughty. Smith said legislators are concerned about pedophiles using pornography to lure children.
“I do not believe this is something that will be used very often,” he said.
Sam Woodard of the Citizens Alliance of Washington, an anti-gay rights group that backed last year’s unsuccessful Initiative 610, said lawmakers should pass the bill despite the threats.
“If you need my tax dollars to fight this in court, you’re more than welcome to them,” Woodard said.
If the idea is keep pedophiles in check, why include music, asked Stuart Halsan, lobbyist for the Recording Industry Association.
Halsan said he doesn’t want prosecutors deciding which artists should be arrested. If the goal is to keep kids away from music that arouses, then Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett are more apt targets than foul-mouthed rap artists, Halsan said.
If the bill becomes law, Halsan and others predicted it will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We will sue, we will win and the taxpayers will pay our bill,” said Richard White, executive director of the Washington Music Industry Coalition.
Recording artists led by the Seattle rock group Soundgarden last year convinced the state Supreme Court to throw out a law that banned so-called erotic music. The court refused to grant legal costs to Soundgarden, but it will be different next time, said Robert Taylor-Manning, coalition president.
Legal fees can be granted if civil rights are violated, Taylor-Manning said, so his organization will play music for kids and force either an arrest or an admission that the measure is political grandstanding.
Recording artists aren’t the only ones concerned about the proposal.
Celia Fritz, a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, said the film industry also believes the bill goes too far.
Noting that the bill defines sexually explicit conduct as physical contact with a person’s clothed or naked buttocks or pubic area, Fritz said the measure could outlaw dancing. She also pointed to a section that says buttocks which aren’t fully covered constitute sexually explicit nudity.
“I can’t keep my bathing suit down that far,” Fritz said. “No one can.”
Several supporters of the measure urged the committee to remove an exemption for museums and libraries. A similar measure in the House would not exempt museums and libraries.
The Legislature last year approved a similar measure, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mike Lowry.
Kent Caputo, Lowry’s legal counsel, said he’s working with Smith to craft a law the governor can sign. That might mean eliminating music, Caputo said.