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Simon backs strip-club tax 

 
Moline Dispatch/Rock Island Argus
April 3, 2012
By Stephen Elliott

MOLINE – Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon expressed her support Tuesday for an Illinois Senate bill that would tax strip clubs to provide money to protect services for sexual assault survivors.

Speaking at Family Resources in Moline, Lt. Gov. Simon said she is backing Senate Bill 3348, which would require all strip clubs permitting alcohol to pay a $5-per-patron fee.

The revenue, estimated at $6 to $12 million annually, would help fund community-based sexual assault prevention and response programs, including the one run by Family Resources.

Cheryl Goodwin, the group's president and chief executive officer, said the center provided services in the form of counseling, advocacy, crisis response, prevention education and training to 30,000 individuals last year through its domestic violence and sexual assault services.

"We've seen state funding shrink and shrink and shrink," Lt. Gov. Simon said.

She said the rape/sexual assault counseling and advocacy program of Family Resources has seen its state funding drop 28 percent since 2009 along with declining staff. Meanwhile, she said demand for crisis and counseling services has increased.

"We think it's a common-sense solution," Lt. Gov. Simon said.

Lt. Gov. Simon said the bill is modeled after a Texas law that was upheld last year by the Texas Supreme Court. That legislation also funds crisis centers through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs that permit alcohol. Lt. Gov. Simon said the court's decision was based on the correlation between alcohol, live nude dancing and negative secondary effects, such as sexual assault.

She said the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge of that decision, effectively opening the door for other cities and states to pursue similar measures.

Nicole Cisne Durbin, director of Family Resources' violence intervention counseling services, said there are too many unknowns with Illinois' fiscal health.

Ms. Durbin said victims of violence "deserve free and confidential help for such a traumatic event in their life."

Kathryn Phillips, spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Simon, said SB 3348 could come to a Senate vote at the end of April and the Illinois House of Representatives in May. Ms. Phillips said the goal would be to get the bill passed and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn by the summer.

She said a Sexual Assault Prevention Fund would be administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services under the plan.

Family Resources provides services to victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault and their non-offending family members in Rock Island County and parts of Henry and Mercer in Illinois and Scott and Muscatine counties in Iowa.

Illinois Sen. MIke Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Illinois Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, could not be reached for comment on the bill. Illinois Rep. Rich Morthland, D-Cordova, said he would wait to see if the bill passes the Senate and the Illinois House caucus' evaluation of the bill before making a decision.