February 06, 2008
Strip club fee lawsuit update

Here's an update on the lawsuit that was filed against the $5-per-customer strip club fee that the Lege passed last session for a sexual assault prevention fund.

A new $5-per-patron fee the state is charging strip clubs is really a tax and should be declared unconstitutional, a lawyer for the clubs argued in court Tuesday.

"They are simply taking money from my clients and funding other purposes," said Stewart Whitehead.


Whitehead, said a fee must be related to regulation, and the state is not using the fee to "abate an alleged nuisance" or benefit the industry.

He said the sponsor of the law enacting the fee, Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, said at a committee hearing that there was no link between the clubs and sexual assaults.

The fee really is an occupation tax, Whitehead said, and the Texas Constitution requires that one-fourth of occupation tax revenue be used to fund public schools.

Christine Monzingo, an assistant attorney general, said the Legislature has authority to charge a fee to a sexually exploitative industry. Even if the $5 charge is an occupation tax, she said, the state comptroller has authority to set aside a quarter of the revenue for education. She urged denial of the motion.

In December, another Travis County judge denied a temporary injunction to prevent the tax from being assessed.

The suit was filed in December. I said at the time I didn't think this was going to get anywhere, and I still think that. Of course, I also didn't think the bill requiring the surcharge would make it through the Lege, so take my assessment with an appropriate amount of salt.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 06, 2008 to That's our Lege
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