March 03, 2009
Bill filed to modify strip club fee

Got the following from State Rep. Ellen Cohen's office:

State Representative Ellen Cohen filed House Bill 2070 today to reform the Adult Entertainment Fee she passed during the 80th Legislative Session in 2007.

"We have been successful in raising the money," Cohen said. "The 1.9 million Texans who are victims of sexual assault could be greatly helped by the $11 million currently collected under this fee. This bill will move us closer to fully addressing sexual assault in Texas."

Primarily, HB 2070 addresses constitutional concerns with two modifications from the original legislation. First, the new bill eliminates a spending provision that previously directed funds to indigent healthcare and will now dedicate all revenue collected to the Sexual Assault Program Fund 5010. Secondly, the fee assessed on certain sexually-oriented businesses would be lowered from $5 to $3 per patron.

Using all funds generated by the Adult Entertainment Fee directly for sexual assault programs will provide an estimated $18 million per year for the fund. This amount will allow for a comprehensive approach to address sexual assault issues in Texas, including research, prevention, response and sex offender management and treatment.

"In the end, the focus must remain on the victim survivors and providing them with the resources they need," Cohen said. "As a Legislator, I will continue to work with members of both parties to bring support to those who need it most. I am confident that my fellow Legislators will, as always, vote with their districts in mind and support the thousands of women, children and men who are survivors of sexual assault."

The original bill was declared unconstitutional by a Travis County court last March, on the grounds that it was a "content-based" tax that did not link the activity being taxed to the programs being funded. That ruling is under appeal by the state, but at the same time the proponents of the original legislation said they would file a bill to address that ruling. And so here we are.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 03, 2009 to That's our Lege

If the city of Houston is successful in largely closing down strip clubs in Houston, and this bill is passed, might there not be a conflict of interest between state and city? In other words, the city is (presumably) concerned with quality of life property and business regulations here, while the state is more interested in raising revenue from those very businesses that the city wishes to suppress.

Admittedly this is a hypothetical, since the bill hasn't passed, and the city seems to have only closed one strip club so far.

Posted by: RWB on March 3, 2009 8:13 AM

There is a an odd sense of disconnect about the fund to begin with since the state would like to close the strip clubs and now would like to tax them which means the state has to keep them open in order to fund the fund so to speak. Makes little sense. Constituional or otherwise. But then little that comes out of Austin does.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on March 3, 2009 9:15 AM

1.9 million victims of sexual assault in Texas! And it is all due to strip clubs! If so, then all strip clubs should of been shut down years ago. Allowing them to be in business is clearly gross negligence on behalf of all government officials who frequent them, oops, I mean regulate them.

Posted by: cb on March 3, 2009 12:03 PM

You'd think all those lawyers in the Texas Legislature would understand the plain meaning of the word "unconstitutional". But no. I wish Rep. Cohen would provide us - and her colleagues - some empirical evidence (if it exists) of the link between visiting a strip club for a beer and the incidence of sexual assault. I'm willing to be educated on the subject.

Posted by: Dennis on March 3, 2009 12:42 PM

Please see the University of Texas report to be released Friday for a full explaination of the statewide impact of sexually oriented businesses in Texas.

Baby Snooks, if we wanted to close the clubs, we wouldn't be lowering the fee. You say much coming out of Austin doesn't make sense, and I believe the same should be said about you.

Posted by: Bill on March 3, 2009 2:43 PM

"Baby Snooks, if we wanted to close the clubs, we wouldn't be lowering the fee. You say much coming out of Austin doesn't make sense, and I believe the same should be said about you."

By "we" I assume you and Ellen Cohen. Everyone else has been writing laws and ordinances all around the state to restrict where these clubs are located with one objective in mind - to close them down.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on March 3, 2009 4:08 PM

Yes, I mean me and Ellen Cohen, I'm her Chief of Staff.

Actually, if you look at every bill I've seen filed, they all look to regulate, not close down. Again, you are confusing regulation with elimination.

But then again I've actually read them so that is pretty unfair.

Posted by: Bill on March 4, 2009 4:48 PM

"But then again I've actually read them so that is pretty unfair."

So have I and I have the right to take issue with what I don't agree with as do others. I have also taken issue with it with someone at TAASA who hasn't resorted to personal attacks when I have done so.

As for regulation versus elimination, the purpose of the regulation is still elimination unless the strip clubs want to relocate out in the middle of nowhere.

As for the legislature, there are other bills you and Ellen Cohen should be reading. HB 106 for instance. Which is the second time a bill aimed at protecting victims in this state has excluded stalking victims who are not also victims of domestic abuse/violence. Stalking is NOT a form of domestic abuse/violence as some apparently believe it is.

I still maintain the real problem is the lack of prosecution. Nothing will educate the public better than prosecuting "the boys just being boys" as Kelly Siegler dismissed sexual assault as during the debacle with Chuck Rosenthal.

The legislature writes all these laws. And then the prosecutors ignore them. Usually on the basis of "boys just being boys."

Posted by: Baby Snooks on March 5, 2009 9:49 AM
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