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L.A. County approves new fees for adult films

L.A. County approves new fees for adult films
Demonstrators at a 2011 rally calling for a law requiring condom use in the porn industry, which voters later approved. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Nearly five years after L.A. County voters passed a measure to require public health permits for pornography productions and condom use during sex scenes, the county government is set to begin implementing fees associated with those permits.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to charge adult film producers an initial $1,672 fee and a $982 renewal fee after every two years. The fee, effective immediately, was set by the Department of Public Health to cover the cost of enforcement.

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In addition to requiring that performers use condoms in on-screen intercourse, the permitting process requires producers to demonstrate that all employees have completed a county-approved training on "blood-borne pathogens," such as HIV and Hepatitis C, and to display the permit and notice of the condom requirement on site.

Nearly a dozen people who currently work in the adult film industry testified in opposition to the motion at Tuesday's hearing, arguing that it would cripple small businesses and self-employed workers.

"A $1,600 fee would absolutely devastate myself and many of my friends in the industry," said Jay Taylor, adding that "mandating a sexual health class to what I argue is the most sexually educated group of people on the planet is misguided."

Mia Li, who also works in the industry and spoke on behalf of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, said the permit's approach was inappropriate.

"The way it's written doesn't acknowledge how diverse and complex the performer population is"; it includes individuals who turn a webcam on themselves at home for a few dollars and studio stars who might make $1,000 or more in a day, Li said.

Others argued that the permit and fees would serve only to drive the industry underground or out of L.A. County. In the three years after Measure B was approved, the number of permits issued for adult films fell from an estimated 480 in 2012 to 26 in 2015.

Five people affiliated with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which campaigned for Measure B in 2012 and a similar initiative statewide that failed in 2016, testified in support of the motion.

"The matter of Measure B … has been litigated by the industry since [2012]," said Arti Bhimani, assistant general counsel of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Los Angeles County should and must enforce Measure B and develop a permit system."

Measure B was approved with 57% of the vote in 2012. In 2013 the adult film company Vivid Entertainment filed a lawsuit seeking to get the measure overturned on the grounds that it unconstitutionally restricted freedom of expression. A three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the condom mandate, and in 2016 Vivid Entertainment and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation reached a settlement.

Derrick Burts, a former performer who contracted HIV and spoke on behalf of the foundation, testified that he felt forced to work without a condom when it wasn't legally required. Of the $1,600 fee, he said, "What's the cost of not paying that when you can catch something like HIV and you have to live with that for the rest of your life?"

The motion passed 4-0, with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl absent.

Twitter: @AgrawalNina

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