May 18, 2009
The fees not paid

The battle over the dueling strip club bills in the Lege this session has mostly been over how much revenue each would collect. But the state has to actually collect that revenue for any of that to be relevant.

Dozens of strip clubs across Texas have ignored a 2007 law requiring them to charge a $5-per-patron entrance fee, potentially costing the state millions of dollars meant to fund sexual assault programs, records show.

Not a dime has yet been used to help the victims of sexual assault.

Since the law went into effect last year, only about $12.2 million has been collected by the state under the law for sexual assault prevention and treatment, far less than the $50 million that had been expected.

"We are, of course, disappointed," said Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. "But hopefully there will be more resources set aside for the comptroller to actually monitor this in the future."

For whatever the reason, I don't recall seeing that $50 million figure before, but it's right there in the fiscal note to the original bill, so it must just be a case of faulty memory on my part. Having said that, the modified bill filed by Rep. Ellen Cohen was projected to bring in $16.5 million in annual revenue, or about a third as much. I suppose that's why the $50 million figure surprised me; the difference is so great.

Cohen said she wasn't surprised that some clubs have ignored the current law, especially in light of the uncertainty created by the court challenge and by the pending legislation.

"If they want to wait and see what's going to happen, that's their choice. They may end up having to pay it and penalties -- I don't know," she said. "I do respect those clubs that have stepped up to the plate and paid."


Topless and nude clubs in Houston and San Antonio have remitted about $4.3 million, about a third of the state total, records show.

More than 100 clubs, however, have ignored the fee entirely, while others have paid only small amounts. Some say they don't want to charge customers more at the door.

Obviously, the court challenge changed things, but I have to ask - what would be the enforcement mechanism for this? I'm guessing a civil suit brought by the Attorney General. I suppose any license renewals, say from the TABC, can be denied pending payment of back taxes as well. Anybody know the answer for sure?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 18, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo

I may be wrong but I believe the comptroller's office can shut them down for non-payment of taxes. But then this is not a tax. It's a fee. Or is it?

In any case, when the comptroller's office sends notice to the business to "pay up or be shut down" I believe they send notice to TABC and other state regulatory agencies. And they are really the ones who shut the business down.

So many other issues that affect victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse/violence and stalking that have been completely ignored by the legislature because of this "titty-bar tax" and in the end it was and is nothing more than self-promotion by politicians.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on May 18, 2009 12:41 PM
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