opinion

The Swift and Quiet Death of AB 847

Diane Duke
On June 23, California Assemblywoman Mary Salas, D-San Diego, amended an existing bill that sought to levy a 20 percent tax on adult entertainment — specifically brick-and- mortar stores, including gentlemen’s clubs. The bill went up for a vote before the Assembly Revenue and Tax committee July 6.

Our lobbyist Ignacio Hernandez contacted me and we began working on a strategy to kill the bill. We asked FSC board chairman and First Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas to write a legal briefing on the unconstitutionality of a tax on adult entertainment, specifically as it was stated in AB 847. Jeffrey donated his time and skill in the development of that brief and it was in Ignacio’s hands within two days.

Our lobbyist worked diligently speaking to members of the committee and disseminating information about the bill and information our attorneys put together about its unconstitutionality. He worked to make sure that other organizations would oppose and speak up. Moreover, he worked to make sure that those who would normally support the bill stayed quiet. As a result, no law enforcement supported the bill and on the day of the hearing FSC sat side by side with the MPAA testifying in opposition.

Shelley Lubben, an ex-performer who now makes her living opposing the industry representing an organization called the Pink Cross, testified that the industry is wrought with prostitution, slavery, drug deals, HIV, meth addicts, murder and suicide. As my blood pressure skyrocketed, Ignacio coached me to stay calm and to put forth a reasoned and professional response. When it came time for our testimony, we were able to paint a very different picture of the industry as well as articulate the unconstitutionality of the bill and its threat to the California economy.

When all was said and done, the swing vote was Assembly Member Saldana. She had previously taken a position in support of the bill but changed her vote and the bill was defeated before it even got out of committee. When Ignacio asked Assembly Member Saldana what changed her mind she said that she had read our materials, there was no law enforcement supporting the bill and that Ms. Lubben was way over the top.

This is how your trade association prefers to lobby. It is cost effective, professional and gets the job done. Most of the work we do is done behind the scenes and you will never hear about it.

It looks like we are out of the woods for the time being, but there will be other legislators and other bills.

Ignacio is our guy in Sacramento and we have endless number of weapons in our arsenal, Joan Irvine at ASACP, Sharon Mitchell from AIM, Nina Hartley, Stormy Daniels, Kayden Kross, Mary Carey and a number of other performers, a variety of generous and supportive First Amendment attorneys, but most importantly, our members. Your financial support, and willingness to contact your legislators when asked, has been paramount in blocking damaging legislation.

The night AB 847 died in committee I was so excited that I wrote on my Facebook page, “Read my lips, No New Taxes…on adult entertainment.” The next morning I woke up to that statement as a headline to the article about the bill’s defeat. Note to self, everybody is on Facebook all the time! To tell you the truth I was glad that the statement went out before I had the opportunity to draft something more professional. I was excited and I wanted everyone to share in that.

The gift of that day for me was that I stood before California legislators who had just heard lie after lie about our industry and I got to tell the truth about adult entertainment. They could see the pride I felt in representing our vital and vibrant industry and with Ignacio’s work and the help of our friend organizations, they got it right!

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