Original Titty-Tax Bill Loses Bounce
A rival bill emerges to tax sexually oriented businesses
House Bill 2070, the latest attempt by Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, to reform the so-called "titty tax," was scheduled for its first public hearing in the House Ways & Means Committee on April 1. But it's already lagging behind a rival bill (see "Staying Abreast of Tax Debate," March 13) by fellow Houston Democrat Rep. Senfronia Thompson, which would scrap the current $5 per customer surcharge on sexually oriented businesses and impose a 10% tax on admissions instead. Thompson's HB 982 sped through House Licensing & Administrative Procedures on March 18 and is now with the Calendars Committee. Both bills would provide funds for the Sexual Assault Program Fund, although Thompson's would send a fourth of the revenues to the Foundation School Fund. Cohen's staff claims her bill will produce $18 million a year; Thompson's office is still unsure how much her proposed tax would generate – and because the old surcharge is still in the courts, the Legislative Budget Board could not provide an estimate. However, the Texas Entertainment Association (the strip-joint trade group) has said it will not oppose Thompson's bill, whereas Cohen's could face another decade in litigation, freezing any taxes collected.