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Calderon submits new porn-tax bill

In January, Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, said he was returning to the Legislature after an eight-year absence as “an older and wiser Chuck Calderon.” According to a constitutional expert, he may have submitted a better porn-tax bill this time around.

On April 10, Calderon used the gut-and-amend process to turn his AB 1551 from a liquor-tax bill into a tax on adult-entertainment venues. The bill calls for a tax on venues that sell adult material. His earlier pornography-tax bill, SB 1013 in 1997, sought to impose a tax directly on the sale of adult material.

“This is a tax on adult businesses, not on adult materials,” said Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law. “That’s an important distinction.”

Lily Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the bill probably would be considered constitutional unless it was “a really excessive tax.”

As with his previous attempt, revenues from the tax would go toward a fund to offset the alleged negative effects of pornography. However, there are key changes there, as well. SB 1013 would have created the victims of Violent Crime Support Fund to help victims of sexual violence.

The analysis from the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee at the time noted that it would be constitutional to tax magazines and films by their content only if a direct causal connection between the sale of these materials and the alleged harm caused. “It does not appear that it has been successfully demonstrated that there is a direct, causal relationship between the depiction of sexually explicit conduct and crimes of sexual violence,” the analysis concluded.

This time around, AB 1551 would create the Adult Entertainment Venue Impact Fund. This money would be used “to ameliorate the secondary effects of adult entertainment venues.”

Volokh said the change could make the bill more palatable to some. Many people’s attitudes toward adult materials could be summarized as “I may watch it at home, but I don’t want it around the corner from me,” he said.

Matt Gray, a lobbyist for the pro adult industry Free Speech Coalition, said both ideas are based on faulty logic.

“AB 1551 is fraught with constitutional problems and irresponsibly promotes a number of myths, which are refuted by case law and nearly two dozen independent secondary-effects studies,” Gray said. “The evidence shows property values around adult businesses are not adversely impacted. In fact, you are safer having an adult nightclub in your neighborhood than you are with a convenience store or gas station.”

Oddly, SB 1013 also was submitted as a gut-and-amend. It was originally introduced as “Sales, use, income, bank, and corporation taxes: exemptions and credits.”

Because it imposes a tax, AB 1551 will be subject to two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature. The bill has not yet received a committee analysis. Calderon’s office did not comment when asked about the bill.

Contact Malcolm Maclachlan at
malcolm.maclachlan@capitolweekly.net


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