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Porno

porno/17″/1stjc/mark2nd By DAN TURNER Staff Reporter The porno industry thinks the latest tax proposal from the state Senate majority leader is obscene. Sen. Charles Calderon, a Democrat from Whittier, plans to introduce legislation that would impose a 5 percent tax on the sale of X-rated entertainment in California. The tax would apply to videos, CD-ROMs, pay-per-view movies, phone sex lines, magazines, and any other medium transmitting pornographic materials. Proceeds from the proposed tax would fund women’s services, such as rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters and counseling for victims of sexual crimes. The tax, if approved, would hit particularly hard in the San Fernando Valley the world capital of the adult film business. About 70 percent of the adult videos made in the United States are produced in the Valley; of the $8 billion U.S. pornography industry, approximately $2 billion annually is generated by the region’s adult film production and distribution companies, estimates Paul Fishbein, publisher of the Adult Video News trade magazine based in Van Nuys. “This is an industry that has a lot of low-capitalized, small entrepreneurs. You can’t say there wouldn’t be businesses wrecked by a 5 percent tax,” said Jeffrey Douglas, a Santa Monica criminal defense attorney who serves as chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment trade and lobbying group headquartered in Van Nuys. On April 1, the Free Speech Coalition marched on Calderon’s office in Sacramento with hundreds of cardboard covers for X-rated videotapes; the original plan was to give him the actual videos to demonstrate that pornography does not portray violence to women, but the Coalition decided to withhold the tapes so as not to violate the $50 ceiling on gifts to state legislators. They also presented the senator with a certificate giving him free admission to a strip club. Calderon was not present for the demonstration. Calderon believes that pornography is degrading to women, and that it regularly depicts scenes of rape and battery. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has generally forbidden special taxes against certain forms of speech, Calderon likens his tax proposal to the “sin taxes” imposed against cigarettes and alcohol and says it will pass constitutional muster once the final language is developed. “We’re doing the legal research now to try to hone our definition of pornography, because we’re not trying to censor or ban it,” said Pilar Onate, Calderon’s spokeswoman. “We’re just trying to tax it.” Onate said the Free Speech Coalition has not tried to contact Calderon’s office for a “reasonable, rational meeting” over the issue. Douglas argues that the proposed bill is unconstitutional, and based on a false concept that pornography promotes, or even portrays, violence to women. Because prosecutors around the country tend to bring obscenity charges against distributors of materials that portray rape, bondage and other forms of violence, it is now nearly impossible to find such content in adult entertainment, Douglas said. He added that studies have never proven a correlation between watching pornography and committing rape or other violent acts. “If you could bend the constitution to allow this kind of abuse, there would be no reason you couldn’t put a tax, say, on all the news stations that showed and romanticized the (Feb. 28) North Hollywood bank robbery,” Douglas said. “Not only that, but 40 percent of X-rated material has nothing to do with women. It’s all men, it’s gay. How do you justify taxing that in order to prevent violence to women?” he added. Outside the legal and moral arguments, few believe the proposed tax would have a serious negative economic impact. Economists consider the sex trade to be “non-elastic,” meaning that slight increases in price have little effect on demand. Fishbein of Adult Video News agrees with Douglas that a 5 percent tax would be both unconstitutional and wrong-headed. But it probably won’t have a big affect on the sex industry, including an estimated 3,200 California workers in production and distribution of adult videos (many of whom can be found in the Valley). “Just like a smoker is going to pay whatever kind of tax you put on cigarettes, a man who wants this kind of entertainment is going to pay the tax,” Fishbein said. The brunt of the tax impact will likely be borne not by producers and distributors, but consumers. In 1995, sales and rentals of adult videos generated $92 million worth of sales taxes in California, Douglas said, and the addition of another 5 percent tax would cost Calfornia consumers about $10 million a year for videos alone.

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