Tennessee Senate Bill 1236 would enact a 25% sales tax subcharge on advertising in certain periodicals for sexually-oriented material and adult materials that are restricted for anyone less than 18.
Media Coalition stipulates in it’s memo in opposition that S.B. 1236 (and it’s counterpart H.B. 0809) contains several constitutional problems. For one, the bill would single out material for taxing based on its content, a practice the Supreme Court has found unconstitutional in past cases. Specifically, in Simon and Schuster, Inc. v. Members of the New York State Crime Board (1991), the court held that imposing a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech is a direct violation of the First Amendment. In addition, the Supreme Court held in 1983 that the power to single out the press with special taxes could be used to coerce or even destroy it, thus violating the Constitution. Finally, the parameters for deeming material “sexually oriented” and for determining what counts as a “periodical” in S.B. 1236 are vague and do not follow the Miller/Ginsberg test for classifying obscene material.
2/12/2009: Tennessee Bill 1236 introduced to Senate
3/16/2009: Memo in Opposition filed by Media Coalition
3/18/2009: Tennessee Bill 1236 assigned to Senate Tax Committee