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December 22, 2014

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Senate committee kills prostitution tax bill

Effort to tack $5 onto visits to legal prostitutes rejected

CARSON CITY – Despite the support of some owners of bordellos, a Senate committee on Thursday defeated a bill to tack a $5 tax on each visit to a prostitute.

By a 4-3 vote, the Senate Taxation Committee rejected Senate Bill 396, which would have imposed the tax and established the office of ombudsman for sex workers.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said he may not support legalize prostitution and Gov. Jim Gibbons “may well veto it.” But Schneider supported imposing the tax.

George Flint, lobbyist for the prostitution industry, said he was disappointed about the outcome. His clients were divided whether to support the tax.

But Flint said the committee gave a fair hearing and he said the brothel owners and three of the prostitutes gave “outstanding presentations.”

Flint said he had a fourth vote at 11 a.m. Thursday “but somebody apparently got to him.” He declined to identify the fourth potential vote.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, the main sponsor of the bill, suggested it would raise $4 million a year with the proceeds going to the state. But Schneider said he wanted the money to remain in rural counties where the bordellos are located.

Schneider levied strong criticism at prostitution in Clark County. He said there were 3,000 pimps and 40,000 prostitutes on the Strip: “It’s also a joke.”

He said trucks drive up and down the Strip advertising girls to come to the hotel rooms. “Years ago Clark County voters were against it but we condone it and it’s illegal,” Schneider said.

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, said it was “inaccurate to say it’s being condoned.” But he said a losing battle might be being waged.

Coffin, Schneider and Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, voted for the bill. Opposed were Care and Sens. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, and Randolph Townsend, R-Reno.

Flint said he was pleased that for the first time since he started representing the industry in 1985 that the industry got a fair hearing and said he was proud of the three senators who voted for the bill.

He estimated the women entertain 400,000 clients a year in the legal bordellos in rural Nevada and that would bring in an annual $2 million. He said the minimum charge now is $100 to $200 at the 25 houses in Nevada.

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