Former Lead Budget Writer Lobbies to Cut Texas "Pole Tax"

Former House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is lobbying for the Texas Entertainment Association — the euphemistically named trade group for the state’s strip clubs.

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, testifies at the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Operations regarding UT Regent Wallace Hall on October 22, 2013.
State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, testifies at the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Operations regarding UT Regent Wallace Hall on October 22, 2013.  Bob Daemmrich

Put former House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, on the lobby team for the Texas Entertainment Association — the euphemistically named trade group for the state’s strip clubs.

Pitts, whose 22-year tenure in the House ended when he decided not to run for re-election last year, is lobbying on behalf of that group to reduce or eliminate the so-called “pole tax,” a $5 fee charged for every customer who enters one of those establishments. The money was originally earmarked to fund state sexual abuse programs and health insurance for Texans with low incomes.

Pitts helped get the pole tax into state law, working with then-Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, on the original version. He reminded the trade group about that — and the fact that he successfully sued one of their clubs after his wife was killed by a drunken driver in 2004. That driver had been drinking at a strip club in Dallas before the accident.

Neither he nor the Texas Entertainment Association wished to be quoted.

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The state’s pole tax has been tangled up in litigation for years, but the appeals are now exhausted and the courts have decided that Texas’ strip club fee is legal.

But the Texas Legislature never rests: State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed a bill that would lower the fee to $2 (House Bill 1785) and another that would eliminate it altogether (House Bill 1805).

Both bills were referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has not scheduled hearings on either one.