Rep. Ellen Cohen, author of HB1751, which assessed a $5 per-customer surcharge on strip clubs to fund a sex assault prevention fund among other things, sent out the following press release in response to the court ruling that declared the fee unconstitutional:
Representative Ellen Cohen held a press conference today issuing a statement regarding Judge Jenkins' ruling on House Bill 1751 otherwise known as the Adult Entertainment Fee. Joining Representative Cohen was Mica Mosbacher, a survivor and advocate of HB 1751 and Kelly Young a Vice-President of the Houston Area Women's Center.
"While we are discouraged by Judge Jenkins verdict, we are not disheartened and we are determined to move forward" said Representative Cohen. In the 2007 legislative session, the Governor and the Legislature provided overwhelming support for the Adult Entertainment Fee. Representative Cohen will work with her colleagues, the Attorney General and Comptroller of Public Accounts to refine HB 1751 in the next Legislative session.
In her remarks, Representative Cohen invited sexual assault advocates and hospitals to continue their support of this legislation and extended an invitation to the sexually oriented business industry to step forward and work with her towards a solution to the lack of sexual assault resources across the state. Mrs. Mosbacher pointed out during her remarks that "54 of the 254 counties in Texas or 20% of the state do not have any resources for sexual assault victims." This lack of resources is one of the primary reasons that Representative Cohen will be diligent in her efforts to continue her work on HB 1751 in the next legislative session.
The intention of HB 1751 is to provide funding for rape crisis centers statewide, research at the University of Texas at Austin Institute of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, prevention campaigns and equipment grants for sexual assault nurse examiners. Ms. Young remarked that in her day-to-day work of providing resources for victim survivors of sexual assault that "we can never do enough because every sexual crime is one too many and nearly 2 million adult Texans in our state have been sexually assaulted. This type of funding is critical and gives hope to victim survivors."
Representative Cohen added "what we must keep in mind is that we are talking about people. We need funds to educate, provide medical services and support research. These victim survivors deserve our best efforts and I promise them that we will do nothing less."
Quality educational and treatment programs need to be establish and maintained to attempt to limit violence in society. Placing the burden on patrons of strip clubs though seems unfair and an attempt to unfairly stigmatize the activity. Men who go to strip clubs are being labeled by this tax as the ones who are sexually assaulting women when that is generally not the case. The fairest approach would be for all monetary penalites collected from convicted assaulters in the criminal justice system to be placed in a fund to help bring an end to such violence. At the very least police should issue citations (and where appropriate arrest people) on the spot when they come upon an assault of any kind.Posted by: cb on April 1, 2008 11:21 AM