New Bill Dances Around Pole Tax

House approves tax on sexually oriented businesses that charge admission

The Texas House has overwhelmingly approved a new tax on sexually oriented businesses.

Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson's proposal -- approved Thursday on a 141-1 vote -- would repeal a $5-per-person fee that strip clubs were required to collect from 2007 legislation. The measure now moves to the state Senate.

The new tax would apply to every sexually oriented business that charges an admissions fee. It would total 10 percent of the gross receipts of the business' admissions.

Club operators support Thompson's measure, The Dallas Morning News reported. Club owners say a per-person fee unfairly targets certain businesses and is excessive during though economic times, according to the newspaper.

Thompson received $5,000 in campaign contributions from strip club owners in the month before her last election, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Topless club owners are fighting the previous state law in court.

Thompson said her proposal would resolve that lawsuit because the new "occupation tax" does not target nude dancing, a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

She said the bill would help get millions of dollars that have been held up by the legal fight moving to a state fund for sexual assault victims.

The strip club owners who have paid the state under the old fee would get a credit toward the new tax.
Critics say Thompson's bill will take in far less money than measures that call for a per-person fee, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Rep. Ellen Cohen is sponsoring a bill that would replace the $5-per-person fee passed in 2007 with a $3 per-person charge, the newspaper reported. The money will go to sexual assault prevention programs, unlike the 2007 measure that also funneled money to low-income health care.

Her bill is in committee, and the House has not yet voted on it.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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