NV: Prostitution tax dies

By BRENDAN RILEY Associated Press Writer
Posted: 04/09/2009 02:29:09 PM PDT
Updated: 04/09/2009 02:29:10 PM PDT

CARSON CITY, Nevada—A plan to levy a $5 state tax on sex acts died Thursday in a Nevada Senate committee, one vote shy of the four needed to keep the proposal alive.

SB369 died on a 3-4 vote in the Senate Taxation Committee despite revisions suggested by Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, a minister, to discourage human trafficking in the sex trade and to ensure that a state ombudsman could help prostitutes get out of the trade.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, offered another amendment to spread the estimated $2 million a year raised by the tax among outlying Nevada counties where prostitution is legal. That would have excluded several counties, including two encompassing the state’s population centers of Reno and Las Vegas, where prostitution is prohibited.

Washington, Schneider and the bill’s sponsor, Senate Taxation Chairman Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, cast the only votes for SB369.

There was little comment from the four opponents. Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he wouldn’t support a new tax on services; and Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, questioned Schneider’s comments that nothing is done about illegal prostitution in the Las Vegas area.

Schneider said the committee heard testimony that there are about 40,000 sex workers and some 3,000 pimps in the Las Vegas area, yet “we kind of get all morally high on these things.”

The state has not collected a dollar in taxes from prostitution since it was legalized in some rural counties more than 30 years ago, and Coffin said that should change because the state is desperate for revenue.
At an earlier hearing on the measure, witnesses included three sex workers at legal brothels, along with a madam and three bordello owners. All but one of the brothel owners spoke in favor of Coffin’s plan to levy the tax and create a state ombudsman to counsel sex workers.

Opponents included prostitution researcher Melissa Farley who termed the bill “an act of legislative pimping” and said the tax proceeds would be “blood money” derived from “a form of sexual abuse” and “paid rape.”

Nevadans pioneered legalized gambling, prize fights and quickie divorces, and for the most part tolerated prostitution even before their state joined the union in 1864. But a historian says a long state history of going against the grain isn’t likely to be enough to advance Coffin’s proposal.

Guy Rocha, in an interview prior to Thursday’s vote, said legislators just don’t want to deal with such a politically charged issue and instead “just want it to go away.”

“Religious conservatives will line up with liberals and feminists who see this as demeaning to women,” Rocha said. “Some don’t want to give prostitution any legitimacy, even though it’s legal in many rural counties.”

Link to original on San Jose Mercury News

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