A night of pleasure at a Houston, Texas strip club just got a little more expensive. City council officials voted in favor of a five dollar 'pole tax' to help speed up the analysis of crime scene evidence in rape cases.
"There's a nexus between the combination of alcohol and these establishments, on violence, rape in general. So we feel that it is important in an age of constrained budgets to fund these vital services for women that arrive out of violent situations," said Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams, who authored a similar proposal for Los Angeles. He added that aside from the thousands of rape kits go unprocessed in California police departments, funding for services is lacking.
"Rape crisis centers across the state are closing because of a lack of funding. The state only provides a miniscule amount of money – about $42,000 – for all rape crisis centers in the entire state," he said.
Williams clarified that the bill is meant to target only the strip clubs that serve alcohol. "If you look at the rates of violence in and around strip clubs that also serve alcohol, there is a large spike in violence in general, and that costs society money, and I think it's fine for society to ask for recovery of those costs," he continued.
Williams' bill would introduce a $10 strip club tax, but it stalled at the appropriations committee stage.
Houston's ordinance is expected to generate up to three million dollars a year for the scheme, similar to a statewide pole tax introduced in 2008. Critics are unhappy with the fee, saying it creates an uneasy connection between the adult entertainment industry and rape.
John Weston, Los Angeles-based attorney representing the Association of Club Executives of Houston, said he's concerned Houston's legislation will affect to narrow a group of adult entertainment venues.
"To focus exclusively on a very, very tiny segment of the alcohol world – those which present some sort of adult entertainment – strikes us as terribly bad public policy, but ... it's ineffective because it's not going to generate enough money for the unquestioned, valuable recipient of these funds," he explained.
Weston said the tax is unnecessary when the city has the money to support services the bill calls for help on.
"It's really kind of a scandalous situation in Houston, which is a city that has a $3.8 billion budget, and they with straight faces are saying, 'Well we don't have any funding on this,'" he went on to say.
According to Weston, the bills mirror legislation coming from anti-sexually oriented expression groups nationwide, who have other motives.
"Their true purpose is the elimination of this form of entertainment, not trying to get money into the coffers of the legislatures ... but rather to use the tax to close the businesses," he said.
Should strip club patrons be expected to fund rape kit testing? Would you prefer a more universal 'vice tax' on alcohol and tobacco to raise money for testing? Do you feel uneasy linking adult entertainment and sexual assault?
Das Williams, Democratic Assembly-member for California’s 35th Assembly District, including Santa Barbara, Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Ynez
John Weston, Los Angeles-based attorney, Weston, Garrou & Mooney who represents the Association of Club Executives of Houston