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.