Nevada prostitution tax dies
Sun News Service
CARSON CITY, Nev. “-Sen. Bob Coffin’s plan to help the state budget crisis by taxing acts of prostitution died in the Senate Taxation Committee Thursday.
The vote was 3-4 on the motion to recommend passage of SB369, which would charge each patron $5 for use of the prostitute’s services.
Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, made the motion, which Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, agreed to second after Washington accepted an amendment dedicating the money raised to the state General Fund only for this coming two year budget cycle. After that, the revenue would be retained by the counties where the excise tax was generated ” those Nevada counties where prostitution is legal and licensed.
But they and Coffin were the only three votes for sending the measure to the Senate floor. Democrats Maggie Carlton and Terry Care of Las Vegas and Republicans Mike McGinness of Fallon and Randolph Townsend of Reno voted no, killing the measure.
Coffin said the plan would have generated about $4 million a year. It was proposed by George Flynt, lobbyist for Nevada’s legal brothel industry.
“I’m not saying I support legalized prostitution in any way,” said Schneider.
He said if the industry wants to tax itself to help the state, he would vote for the bill. But Schneider criticized the counties where prostitution is illegal, particularly Clark, for not doing more to control the illegal sex trade.
“We don’t police it in any way,” he said. “We condone that business. What we’re going, I think that it’s almost a joke down there.”
Care objected saying he believes the sheriff and police do try to control illegal prostitution.
McGinness said simply that he wouldn’t support a new tax on services.
Along with the tax, the provisions in the bill creating an ombudsman for sex workers within the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation died as well. That provision was key to Washington’s support. There has been testimony that prostitutes working illegally are often abused by pimps.
Flynt has estimated the business serves more than 600,000 customers a year in some 30 legal brothels.
Brothels have always been either legal or tolerated in different parts of Nevada.
Pressure from the U.S. military forced bans on the houses in Reno and Las Vegas at the start of World War II. When military leaders threatened to make those towns off limits to servicemen, “Block 16” in Las Vegas was shut down as were “the cribs” in Reno. State law banned brothels in Clark County and Washoe outlawed them by ordinance.
But there were generally no laws either banning or allowing brothels in most counties until the 1970s when Storey, Churchill and several other counties legalized and began taxing their brothels. There are three legal brothels in Lyon County just east of Carson City.
This isn’t the first time Flynt has brought a plan to tax brothels to the Legislature. But Coffin pointed out it’s the first time it came close to passing out of committee.