8/29/2011 11:54 AM
Those who have followed Texas politics for some time know that the idea of collecting state revenue at strip joints is quite controversial and has a history.
In 2004, it blew up as part of a proposal to fund public schools. But when connected to services for survivors of sexual assault, it became more palatable politically. The fee became the subject of a court challenge and was struck down by the Third Court of Appeals.
The fee is not a tax on unpopular speech but a restriction on combining nude dancing, which unquestionably has secondary effects, with the aggravating influence of alcohol consumption … The fee in this case is clearly directed, not at expression in nude dancing, but at the secondary effects of nude dancing when alcohol is being consumed. An adult entertainment business can avoid the fee altogether simply by not allowing alcohol to be consumed. For these reasons, we conclude that the fee is not intended to suppress expression in nude dancing.
The court upheld the fee’s constitutionality under the First Amendment and remanded the case for consideration of issued raised under the Texas constitution. In addition, the plaintiffs can appeal the federal constitutional ruling to the United States Supreme Court. The author of the fee, former Rep. Ellen Cohen (D-Houston), told the Houston Chronicle she is pleased with the ruling
Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, issued the following statement: "Today's decision is a victory for the State of Texas and, more importantly, victims of sexual assault. The Texas Supreme Court confirmed what we've said all along: the sexually oriented business fee is constitutional. Thanks to today's ruling, we are a step closer to freeing up millions of dollars for sexual assault prevention and crime victims' assistance."