As the Free Speech Coalition gears up for its tenth annual Celebrate Free Speech Lobbying Days on April 22-23, it will be fighting the same fight it won during those very first lobbying days back in 1997: A porn tax bill proposed by Assemblyman Charles Calderon.
Assembly Bill 1551, as amended, creates an "Adult Entertainment Venue Tax" which seeks to tax the sale, storage, use, or other consumption of adult materials, including live performances, as well as businesses, to fund programs which address criminal activity.
It's that last phrase which makes the new tax bill different from its older brother: That tax bill sought to fund women's shelters, on the reasoning that sexually explicit material contributed to spousal abuse and other violence against women. However, there was (and is) no scientific evidence to support that hypothesis.
The current legislation, however, relies heavily upon the equally unfounded "secondary effects" of those businesses, including claims that retail stores and clubs – and the industry in general – contribute to decreased property values, illegal sales of controlled substances, prostitution – and, of course, crimes against women and children. As sociologist Daniel Linz has pointed out in his ground-breaking study of the 10 secondary effects "studies" most relied upon by municipalities in supporting adverse adult zoning ordinances, the only scientifically-valid studies in the group actually show that adult businesses do none of those things.
Calderon also has one thing going for him that he didn't have before: He's currently the chairman of the Assembly's Revenue and Taxation Committee, which will be the first committee to consider the bill.
According to an article by Malcolm Maclachlan published in February in Capitol Weekly, the inspiration for Calderon's reintroduction of the bill, which is a clearly unconstitutional attempt to selectively tax speech on the basis of its content, may have come from the federal government and its stepped-up efforts to enforce the provisions of 18 U.S.C. §2257, the federal recordkeeping and labeling law. Apparently, the logic is, if the feds are worried that the industry is using minors in its features – there have been just four such cases in the past 20 years – then it must be doing something wrong, and therefore open to taxation to "protect" the state from the industry's alleged harmful effects.
So while the past couple of FSC Lobbying Days have been used more for public relations than to fight specific legislation, this year's trek to the state capitol will be much more legislation-directed.
"If you can, we encourage you come up to Sacramento on April 22-23, to help protect our industry," said Free Speech Executive Director Diane Duke. "Our legislators need to hear from as many of us as possible."
To register for Celebrate Free Speech Lobbying Days, email email@example.com with your full contact information or call 818-348-9373. But do it soon; lobbying days are less than a week away.