Pole Tax Advances in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania state representative Paul Clymer (R - Bucks County) introduced his Sexually Oriented Businesses Revenue Act Wednesday to state legislators. Proposed last month, the bill calls for a $5 "pole tax" at strip clubs to benefit the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Seventeen co-sponsors signed the bill, which would require strip club owners to collect the fee from every patron and send the proceeds to the state. The bill was inspired by the opening of Coyotes Show Club in Milford, Pa. and modeled on a strip-club tax introduced earlier this year in Texas.

The Texas pole tax was declared unconstitutional in March by a District Court judge. Clymer has implemented changes to his proposal in order to avoid similar legal challenges.

"We have strengthened the bill, and I believe it will meet constitutional muster," Clymer said. "We're trying to advance good values and morality and be a help to the hardworking parents who are bringing their children up to have strong character."

Opponents of the bill, however, feel it will only drag Pennsylvania into unnecessary legal battles that will be costly to taxpayers.

"I understand that Rep. Clymer is trying to find creative funding for noble causes, and I empathize with the plight all legislators face during such difficult economic times, but to copy a tax in Texas that has already been ruled unconstitutional risks a greater loss to taxpayers, workers and the commonwealth," said Angelina Spencer, executive director of national adult club trade organization the Association of Club Executives.

ACE has further criticized the bill due to the link it suggests between adult entertainment and rape. Others claim that Clymer drafted the bill as an attempt to legislate his religious beliefs.

"Whatever happened to separation of church and state?" asked Glenn McGogney, an attorney for Coyotes Show Club. "He's picking on a business he doesn't like because of his personal religious objections and placing a tax on that."

If the bill becomes law, it's still unclear how the pole tax would be enforced. As written, clubs would be required quarterly to report the number of patrons and pay the corresponding amount to the state in a lump sum. Whether the $5 surcharge gets passed on to the customer or drawn from the club's revenues, however, would be left up to the club.

"It's an issue we're going to have to discuss," Clymer said.

Meanwhile, Clymer doesn't know how much money the state might expect to generate with the tax, either, as he has no figures compiled on how many strip clubs there are in Pennsylvania.

"The adult entertainment and pornography business is growing, and we need to assess the magnitude of it in Pennsylvania," said Clymer.