Kansas Moves Forward on Adult Tax Initiative

Matt O'Conner
TOPEKA — Lawmakers in Kansas have moved one step closer to imposing a statewide excise tax on adult products and businesses.

The state’s Special Committee on Assessment and Taxation are studying the passage last year of a sin tax in Utah as well as similar ongoing efforts in Oklahoma and Missouri, hoping to draft airtight legislation that will not only stand a good chance of being voted into law but also stand up to possible judicial review.

One state official, Gordon Self of the Kansas Revisor of Statutes Office, warned legislators that lawsuits would be inevitable under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that state legislatures show a compelling state interest in taxing one industry more aggressively than others.

“A court is not going to accept the argument that the state just needs the money,” he told the Kansas City Star.

In the past, some lawmakers and lobbying groups have argued that the “state interest” lies in supposed secondary effects of pornography, claiming a connection between adult entertainment establishments and sex crimes. These claims have, for the most part, been rejected by the courts.

So far, Utah is the only state whose legislature has passed an adult-entertainment tax, and the measure was almost immediately challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations.

The case is still pending. If the courts side with the state, Utah will begin collecting an additional 10 percent on entrance fees for strip clubs as well as all services offered at the clubs, including table dances.

The Oklahoma bill under consideration goes a step further by taxing goods such as X-rated videos, DVDs and magazines.

The last version of the proposed Missouri law is most extensive, levying a $5 charge on each person entering an adult establishment and a 20 percent excise on the gross receipts of adult businesses. It was rejected earlier this year by the state Senate, but lawmakers have promised a toned-down version will be reintroduced.

Unlike many of their counterparts, Kansas lawmakers are inviting input from the adult industry. They will hold a hearing Oct. 18. Anyone interested in participating should contact the state’s Legislative Research Department.

Kansas is widely considered one of the most conservative states in the country. Several communities are taking actions against adult businesses through local law enforcement efforts. And, as XBiz reported in July, a group called Operation Southwind has requested a grand jury review of seven stores it claims are violating obscenity laws.

The tax proposal was first put forth several months ago by Phillip Crosby, an anti-adult crusader who also convinced prosecutors to file obscenity charges against an Abilene Lion’s Den Store.