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New legislation in Washington State could end the backlog of 6,000 rape-kits statewide, and is proposing a novel way to pay for the testing.
The so-called “stripper tax” would tax the adult-entertainment industry by requiring businesses to collect a fee from patrons upon entering. The planned revenue would be used to fund rape-kit testing at private labs, easing the burden on already swamped state police crime labs.
The new bill, HB 2530, would also help victims track their rape kits through the testing process from the evidence locker to the laboratory—a promising new measure that has had success in other states around the country.
Advocates of the bill allege a strong connection between the sex industry, human trafficking and sexual assault. According to the bill, there are millions of victims of human trafficking and some 70 percent of those end up in the sex trade, and specifically, the adult-entertainment industry.
“The sexually oriented business fee offsets the impacts of crime and the other deleterious effects caused by the presence of sexually oriented businesses in Washington,” according to the authors of the bill.
The $4 fee could be significant. According to the bill, “sexually oriented businesses” earn more than $25 million in Washington State annually. The fee would be in addition to any other cover charges already put in place by the establishment. Any business owners that fail to collect the money, or refuse, will face misdemeanors.
According to a NBC affiliate, the state passed legislation that required all kits to be submitted for testing within 30 days back in July, which put an enormous strain on Washington State Police crime labs. The hope is the bill will generate revenue to pay for testing backlogged rape kits at private labs.
However, critics of the proposed bill say rape-kit testing can be paid for through government funding, and that undue taxes put unnecessary pressures on businesses—even strip clubs.
“I do not support this fee,” Washington senator Ann Rivers, a rape survivor herself, told NBC. “I believe we can get this (rape kit testing) funded out of the priorities of government in public safety.”
A public hearing on the proposed bill was scheduled this week during the state’s House Committee on Public Safety.