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Pa. tax idea: $5 per strip-club patron

The concept has been dubbed a "pole tax" and it could be called an "uncover charge" - collect $5 for every strip-club visitor in Pennsylvania.

The concept has been dubbed a "pole tax" and it could be called an "uncover charge" - collect $5 for every strip-club visitor in Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Paul Clymer, whose district serves Bucks County, hopes to introduce a bill as early as next week to mandate such a levy.

The money would go to help victims of sexual abuse, to help counter the damage strip clubs do to their communities, the Republican said.

"There are too many risks, too many problems associated with this industry," such as underage drinking, disorderly conduct and prostitution, he said.

After Texas adopted a $5-per-patron tax in January, Clymer lined up 20 sponsors for similar legislation in Pennsylvania.

He decided to revise that proposal, however, after a Texas court found such a tax to be unconstitutional.

Clymer hoped his updated bill would avoid any legal pitfalls. One change was to carefully define which businesses would be affected, so the tax wouldn't apply to movie theaters, he said.

Clubs could pay the fees without making individual customers pay the $5, he said.

A wider-ranging possibility - imposing an excise tax on a variety of sexually oriented businesses - was brought up in January by Jane Orie, the State Senate's majority whip.

She introduced a resolution calling for a study of the effects of such enterprises, including escort services, phone-sex lines, and stores that sell pornography and sex toys.

"If these establishments in fact have an impact on crime, property taxes and economic development, then we should look at ways we can generate revenue to mitigate those effects," Orie said.

So far, the resolution is still before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Why are we wasting legislator's time and taxpayers money with this?" said Angelina Spencer, executive director of the National Association of Club Executives, a Florida-based group that represents more than 3,800 clubs nationwide.

Spencer, a former stripper and club owner, disputed contentions that strip clubs incite criminal behavior and lower property values.

"It all looks pretty on paper, but when you do a veracity check of all these claims that are made about the secondary effects, you start to discover that a lot of the claims aren't true," she said.

"The adult entertainment industry already pays a plethora of taxes in Pennsylvania" - including business taxes, property taxes and liquor licenses, she said.

The industry does not oppose regulation, but it's unfair to single out one kind of business in a "desperate search for funding," she said.

Clymer said his interest in this issue grew after the December opening of the Coyote Strip Club in Milford Township in his district, despite local opposition.

The funds raised, he said, would go to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which supports a variety of groups, including the Bucks County-based Network of Victim Assistance.

In March, District Court Judge Scott H. Jenkins struck down the Texas patron-tax law "for singling out business activity involving expression that, while politically unpopular, is nevertheless protected by the First Amendment."

Jenkins also ruled the funding-raising rationale - helping those lacking health insurance - was unrelated to the business activity.

Clymer hopes that helping victims of sexual abuse will be deemed appropriate.

The state of Texas is continuing to collect the tax while the case is being appealed.