September 26, 2016 8:00 AM
Georgians have four proposed Constitutional amendment questions on their November ballots this November. I’ve already belabored the point of voting NO on Amendment 3 regarding the dissolution of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but there is another of equal importance: Amendment 2 for the Safe Harbor Act.
What it will do:
- The Amendment will allow the state of Georgia to impose a $5,000 annual tax, a 1% of the gross revenue for the company – whichever is greater, on adult entertainment establishments.
- The money collected will be directed to a NEW bureaucratic commission responsible for funding victim rehabilitation.
- Georgia’s civil forfeiture practices will be expanded as law enforcement agencies will be able to seize additional assets of accused persons prior to a conviction.
A little background:
The legislation, and the enabling bill to place the measure on the ballot, was passed in 2015. I wrote about the legislation extensively beginning from the day it dropped, I was working at the Capitol at the time.
At one point, I called the legislation ‘The Most Dishonest Bill of the 2015 Session’ in one of my columns. I stand by the statement, and since it’s been 18 months since the legislation passed, I’m even more confident in that statement. Since the crusade against adult entertainment industries, not a single arrest relating to human or sex trafficking has been made at a strip club, or in the proximity of strip club. In fact, during the Committee Hearings for the bill, not a single victim testified that they were victimized at strip clubs. Each one noted the crimes were a result of the internet. If that’s the case, shouldn’t they be taxing the internet? (That’s sarcasm)
Just recently, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Renee Unterman admitted as much to the Macon Telegraph, ““People in the rural areas they say, ‘It doesn’t happen here.’ (But) it happens any place you got the internet. You got chat rooms and kids run away from home. Or they make an acquaintance in the chat rooms, and they get picked up,” she said.
Worse, this government-growing legislation was brought to you, in full, by House and Senate Republicans.
After the bill passed both chambers, before the Governor even signed it into law, the stripper lobby made it clear they would challenge the law – and they have a Constitutional basis to do so.
Why defeat of the Amendment is necessary:
The Amendment is being sold to the public as one that aid in the reduction of human trafficking in Georgia and an initiative that will protect children. The blunt reality is that THIS AMENDMENT WILL DO NEITHER. It simply does not have the capability to do such a thing. If a strip club is doing something illegal, local governments and law enforcement have the ability to sanction the establishment or shut them down. Imposing a tax and throwing money at a problem will not fix it.
More importantly – taxing an unrelated industry is immoral.
The State of Georgia already has too many governmental entities. There is no conservative argument to create a NEW Commission for the sole purpose of funneling money. Isn’t that the reason we already have dozens of anti-human trafficking non-profit organizations? I’m sure they have a better idea of how to allocate resources, anyway.
I can assure you, it isn’t a popular position to take, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right position. Who wants to vote against children? Worse, who wants to be on the side of the strippers? I can assure you, it wasn’t me. But the precedent this sets is dangerous. We have a Republican majority in the House and Senate, but what happens when that changes? What happens when it’s gun shops or army surplus stores or health insurance companies or any other industry that’s directly affected by the $5,000 fee because some legislators disapprove?
This isn’t about being in favor of strip clubs. This is strictly about being pro-free market, pro-small government, and anti-taxation. What makes us so great? People can do things we don’t approve of and the world keeps turning.
The State of Georgia has no vested governmental interest, Constitutional or otherwise, in collecting money for human trafficking victims. If they did, they wouldn’t have to amend the Georgia Constitution in order to do it.
Send Georgia legislators a message and let them know that taxation isn’t a tool to punish what they don’t like. VOTE NO on Amendment 2 for the Safe Harbor Act on November 8th.