Legislature approves new $2 tax on strip club customers

The legislature has given final approval  to a bill levying a $2 tax on each customer entering a “sexually oriented business” – or strip club. Revenue raised from the tax under the measure, as introduced, was earmarked a fund to benefit survivors of sex trafficking, paying for things like more beds and programs at sex trafficking rehab centers, though changed via amendment to state that’s only a general intent.

The bill (HB1701) by Rep. Darren Jernigan and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, both Nashville Democrats, got final approval with a 25-2 Senate vote on Wednesday. The House had voted 70-14 for the bill on March 12.

The Fiscal Review Committee staff estimates enactment will produce $372,300 for the sex trafficking victims fund annually – based on a belief there will be 7,160 visits to 26 Tennessee strip clubs each year. The “fiscal note” also says Texas enacted a similar tax at $5 per customer in 2008 in a state that has 192 “adult performance businesses.”

Further from the Times-Free Press report:

Some conservative Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a tax of any kind. Among them was Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, a physician and social conservative who questioned sponsor Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, as to what a “normal charge” is to enter an adult performance business.

“I defer to other members who may have more personal knowledge about that,” Yarbro said.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate’s Republican speaker, asked whether any senator wished to answer the question. No one sought recognition.

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