40% Porn Tax Proposal Moves Forward in Ala.

Sep 11, 2015 9:52 AM PST

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama is one step closer to mandating a 40 percent state excise tax on pornography — even online content.

The Alabama House Ways and Means Committee this week passed the proposed porn tax with a 10-4 vote on Wednesday in an effort to close a $200 million budget deficit.

If passed into law, the proposal would effectually place a tariff on the gross receipts from the sale, rental or admission charges of pornographic material disseminated in print, videos and online downloads.

The bill does not mention sex toys and novelties, likely because Alabama continues to have a statute banning the sale of them. The law was upheld in 2005 by U.S. justices, who let stand a lower court ruling that said Alabama had a right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating.

Residents may lawfully purchase sex toys out of state for use in Alabama, or use them if the devices have other recognized medical uses.

The porn tax proposal (HB17), which was introduced in August, now heads to the full Alabama House for a floor vote.

Adult industry attorney Lawrence Walters of Walters Law Group told XBIZ on Friday that there are numerous constitutional problems with the Alabama bill.

“First is the inherent vagueness in attempting to define what constitute 'sexually oriented materials,'” Walters said. “Would a sex education book, or '50 Shades of Grey' be taxed under this proposal?  

“Numerous state statutes attempting to impose age verification obligations on adult websites have been invalidated on this basis, over the years,” he said. “Taxing media based strictly on its erotic nature also constitutes a content-based regulation, which may run afoul of the First Amendment.  

“Finally, the attempt to impose this state statute on sale on online material may violate the commerce clause, since Internet commerce is typically subject to regulation only at the federal level.

“Instead of trying to get control over its spending problems, Alabama seems to be looking at an unrealistic quick fix to its budget shortfalls.”

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