Legislators rarely send amicus briefs to the Texas Supreme Court explaining why a law was passed, because the court usually doesn’t listen anyway, two experts say. However, one lawmaker has done just that in a case involving the constitutionality of a state law waggishly known as “the pole tax.”

On Nov. 20, state Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, and two advocacy groups submitted an amicus brief to the high court in Susan Combs, et al. v. Texas Entertainment Association, et al. in the hopes of shedding more light on the reasons the Texas Legislature passed the 2008 law. The law imposes a $5 tax on each customer who enters a sexually oriented business (SOB) that serves alcohol. Cohen, who directed the Houston Area Women’s Center for 18 years, sponsored H.B. 1751, which created the SOB law. Even the lawyer who helped craft Cohen’s amicus brief says such briefs by legislators attempting to explain why the Legislature passed a law are controversial but, in this case, such a brief was necessary. [See Cohen's amicus brief, the petitioner's brief on the merits and the respondents' brief on the merits.]

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