Washington House Bill 2103 imposes a sales tax on “adult entertainment material” and defines “adult” material as any material that is primarily interested in sex, using sex acts that would merit an “X” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as a benchmark.
Media Coalition stipulated in the memo in opposition that the state cannot place special burdens on retailers of First Amendment-protected material. As the Supreme Court has said, the government can neither require a license of speakers of protected communication nor impose a business tax specific on the dissemination of protected speech not generally imposed. The bill also becomes dubious in its attempts to define “adult entertainment material” using a privately trademarked rating system that is not publicly available or even enunciated. The generally ambiguous and overly subjective language used in the bill would leave retailers uncertain what material fits the definition.
Even if the sales tax was limited to material that is illegal or illegal for minors under Washington law, it is the job of the courts, not an owner of a book or video store or a staff person in the Department of Revenue, to determine if material is illegal. This determination can only be made by a court with the full protections of due process.
2/10/2009: Washington House Bill 2103 introduced to House
2/13/2009: Memo of Opposition filed by Media Coalition
The bill did not make it out of the House Finance committee upon its first introduction in February 2009. It was reintroduced without success twice in January and March of the following year.