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Calderon considers reviving porn tax

Assembly Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, is considering bringing back the porn tax.

Calderon’s office said that he still is making a decision and looking at language. A decade ago, Calderon made headlines for seeking to authorize an additional point-of-sale tax on adult materials. However, it died in a Committee and sparked a small media frenzy when a group of porn stars marched on his office. Some in the adult-entertainment industry credit that bill with their political awakening.

If he goes forward, Calderon will be opposed by an adult-entertainment industry that is far better organized this time around. However, the industry is also arguably under far worse political fire.

The pressure is coming from the federal government this time, in the form of a law that some in the adult industry claim tries to use a nonexistent problem to shut the industry down. Title 18, part 1, chapter 110, section 2257 of federal code governs the bookkeeping of performers in adult productions.

The code has been in place since 1988, but the Department of Justice rewrote key parts in 2004 to comply with the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act, passed by Congress the previous year. The PROTECT Act made sweeping changes to U.S. sex-crime law, such as prison terms of up to “30 years for U.S. citizens or residents who engage in illicit sexual conduct abroad.”

The new rules call on producers of adult videos and magazines to not only keep age records for their performers, but also records of all their aliases, stages names and even other productions they have been in. These terms–and the two- to 10-year prison terms that come with breaking them–could be expanded to those who advertise or sell these products, as well.

The Free Speech Coalition and other adult-industry groups have been fighting the new rules ever since. The group’s lead attorney, Jeffrey Douglas, said there is a “deep and abiding hostility toward the adult industry” by some in Congress. But, he adds, “In California, there is not the kind of residual hostility there is in other states.”

That, and the fact that the vast majority of domestic production of adult materials occurs in California, is the reason the industry has been pushing an alternative law in the California Legislature. Their bill confiscates any money made by underage performers who use fake IDs to perform in adult entertainment.

So far, they haven’t found any takers. But they’re also hoping to bring to people’s attention what they say is an excellent job of self-policing by producers. The Coalition’s newly-appointed executive director, Diane Duke, points out that the last high profile underage performer to make it through the safeguards was Traci Lords–who will turn 40 next year.

Last year there was a case where a 17-year-old tried use her 24-year-old sister’s ID. Duke said that she was found out, and the producer in question blast-faxed almost everyone else in the industry to be on the lookout for her.
“It’s not about us breaking the law,” Duke said. “It’s about someone else breaking the law.”

As for Calderon’s tax bill, the Coalition’s lobbyist Matt Gray said they believe they’ll be able to turn it back again–even with Calderon chairing the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee. It is unconstitutional to impose a tax based solely on content, Gray said.
“He’s an attorney,” said Gray. “I wonder what he was doing during constitutional-law class.”

Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at malcolm.maclachlan@capitolweekly.net


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