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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 patron in Pennsylvania.

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

State Rep. Paul Clymer (R., Bucks) hopes to introduce a bill as early as next week to mandate such a levy.

After Texas adopted a $5-per-patron tax in January, Clymer lined up 20 sponsors for similar legislation. He revised the proposal, however, after a Texas judge ruled in March that the tax was unconstitutional and that a plan to have revenue from the tax benefit people without health insurance was unrelated to the business activity.

In one change, Clymer carefully defined which businesses would be affected so the tax wouldn't apply to movie theaters, he said.

In addition, Clymer plans to give the tax revenue to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which supports a variety of groups, including the Network of Victim Assistance in Bucks County, to help counter the damage that he said strip clubs did to their communities.

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

Clubs could pay the fees for their customers, he said.

A wider-ranging possibility - imposing an excise tax on a variety of sexually oriented businesses - was brought up in January by Senate Majority Whip Jane Clare Orie (R., Allegheny).

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.

The resolution is still before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Angelica Spencer, executive director of the Association of Club Executives, a Florida group that represents more than 3,800 clubs nationwide, disputed contentions that strip clubs incite criminal behavior and reduce property values.

"Why are we wasting legislators' time and taxpayers' money with this?" asked Spencer, a former stripper and club owner.

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

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

Clymer said his interest in this issue had grown after the Coyotes Show Club opened in Milford Township in his district in December despite local opposition.

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

Texas is continuing to collect the tax while the case is appealed.