Bill would block porn on new phones, computers unless consumers pay a tax

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Backers plan to introduce a bill on the federal level to tax pornography. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Backers plan to introduce a bill on the federal level to tax pornography. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Attorney Russ Richelsoph questions the constitutionality of such a measure. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Attorney Russ Richelsoph questions the constitutionality of such a measure. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Kathleen Winn of the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network says pornography is a "gateway to sex trafficking," and says porn should be taxed liked cigarettes and alcohol. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Kathleen Winn of the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network says pornography is a "gateway to sex trafficking," and says porn should be taxed liked cigarettes and alcohol. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Lawmakers in about a dozen states are considering a bill that would block pornography from all new phones and computers unless consumers pay up.

Backers of the porn tax plan to introduce it on the federal level this month.

State Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) considered sponsoring a version of the bill in Arizona, but the measure was not introduced this session, her staff confirmed.

Supporters say porn is a public health problem and argue that taxing it would help cut down on a range of issues, including sex trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Act would require that all new internet-connected devices be equipped with a porn filter. Consumers who want to unlock the filter would have to pay a one-time fee of $20 on each device.

The tax would be used to fund groups that fight human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault and other issues, according to boilerplate language from the act's supporters.

“What we know about pornography is that it's addictive. It actually affects the brain,” said Kathleen Winn of the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network.

“Like any drug, like an addiction, you need more and more and more of it to get the same reaction from it as the first time you saw it. So yes, I absolutely believe pornography is contributing to the growing criminal enterprise of sex trafficking.”

Winn said she supports the legislation as another tool to combat trafficking, but critics say the bill would lead to a massive censorship apparatus.

Others, like Tempe-based attorney Russ Richelsoph, question the constitutionality of such a measure.

“While I'm not advocating pornography, it is a form of speech. It is protected by the First Amendment, and it is a problem if they're trying to create a tax to prevent people from engaging in that form of speech,” he said.

Richelsoph, a firearms enthusiast, said the legislation could open the door to taxes on other kinds of speech.

“If this passes First Amendment muster, what would prevent states that are not friendly to firearms from doing the same thing with regards to websites that have content about firearms?” he said.

Winn sees it differently.

“We have taxes on cigarettes. We have taxes on alcohol. We have taxes on any product that you go and buy. This is a product,” she argued.

A number of state legislatures including South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas are currently considering versions of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. Lawmakers in North Dakota and Wyoming rejected the measure.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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