Legal Battle Brewing Over Texas Fees on Adult Entertainment

December 10, 2007

Should adult entertainment establishments be charged an extra fee by the government for adults to enter places like topless bars? Governor Perry and many Texas legislators think such discriminatory “taxation” is good public policy. From the Dallas Morning News:

Lawyers for Texas’ adult entertainment industry are asking a judge to block a state-mandated $5 cover charge at strip clubs – money that, starting Jan. 1, will be collected to fund sexual assault prevention and health care for the uninsured.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Travis County, alleges that lawmakers violated club operators’ constitutional right to free speech when they approved the surcharge last spring. Owners of topless bars have argued that the fee, designed to help victims of sexual assault, imposes a discriminatory tax on their businesses and unfairly links their patrons to rape.

And though officials from the Texas attorney general’s office vowed to do whatever it takes to uphold the adult entertainment fee, government insiders acknowledged quietly that they may face an uphill battle.

A similar strip club fee endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2004 – one that would’ve raised money for education – never made it into law after legislators voiced concerns that it was an inappropriate and unseemly stretch.

The bill’s authors say they’re not suggesting that people who go to strip clubs or adult-video stores walk out and commit sex crimes; they’re simply seeking revenue for underfunded programs.

Yet another example of politicians arbitrarily choosing what they don’t like, sticking a tax on it, and then tying it to some spending program that receives public sympathy. The final paragraph basically says exactly this — that there is no link between the funding and the tax source — we just want money. We’ve seen this repeatedly with cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, fat taxes, etc.

If Governor Perry and the rest of the legislators want to continue on their moral crusade, why not ban strip clubs? But they wouldn’t be able to do this very easily because no tax revenue would come from this policy.

One other point: the proponents of this bill are forgetting that there is often an easy substitute for in-person adult entertainment when the price gets too high: virtual entertainment.


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