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The saga of what some are referring to as the Georgia “porn tax” is unraveling with details of national advocacy, wide publicly scrutiny, and tainted professional histories.

Background

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State representative Paulette Rakestraw, a Powder Springs Republican, dropped the “Human Trafficking Prevention Act,” or House Bill 509, on February 27. Rakestraw was also vocal in 2015 when the legislature passed a tax on strip clubs – institutions that were identified by the Georgia General Assembly to be the most prominent places for human trafficking in the Peach State.

Late last week, AllOnGeorgia published an opinion piece on the proposed piece of legislation that would require retailers to charge customers who plan to use an Internet-capable device to view porn to pay a $20 fee. The “Human Trafficking Prevention Act” is making waves around the nation with vocal supporters in favor and against the concept. The opinion piece published here took to task the legislation’s wording, the effectiveness of such a bill. and the constitutionality.

Clarification 

Following a slew of debates on social media, including one by the sponsor who said the opinion piece ‘full of misinformation,’ AllOnGeorgia reached out for clarification.

“The whole slat of the article indicates that I’m trying to block free speech and peoples right to porn, I’m not. This isn’t a tax, it is a fee to remove a filter and the only ones that pay it are the ones that want the filter removed on their device,” Rakestraw said.

She continued on to say that “the internet is the biggest driver of human trafficking and porn addiction and it has many secondary harmful effects.”

Rakestraw did not clarify on which harmful effects the bill seeks to target, however, the fees collected will be directed to the Georgia Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Trust Fund.

The Advocates

Rakestraw is one of 74 sponsors around the country in 36 states, all of whom have been working alongside a national organization advocating for this legislation in every corner of the country. The organization is not identified by name on their home website, The Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act. The lack of entity name or organizational information prevents any inquiry into lobbying dollars, though.

The organization, clearly gaining traction, has dozens of lobbyists and liaisons representing the cause, but one gentleman has taken to the forefront in legislatures and in headlines.

Chris Sevier, identified as ‘Chris Sevier Esq. – Former Prosecutor And Lobbyist’ on the severe tech companieswebsite, has traveled to different states to offer testimony in favor of the legislation. He is not a registered lobbyist in the state of Georgia, though he did sit next to Rep. Rakestraw at a Judiciary Committee hearing in the House last week. Rakestraw referred to him as an expert witness. On his own personal Facebook page, he has touted how much money legislation like this will bring to tech companies. (see right)

Sevier has an interesting past of his own. He made headlines a few years back in Texas when he tried to sue to marry his laptop computer in Texas as a stand against same sex marriage and he sued Apple in Florida for not having porn filters already installed on its products. Additionally, his law license was indefinitely revoked in the state of Tennessee after the State Bar found him to be affected by a mental illness. The revocation was ultimately upheld by the state supreme court. Sevier was arrested twice for aggravated stalking, once of a 17-year-old girl and once for interactions with country music star John Rich of ‘Big and Rich.

Below are some of the links connected to Sevier:

Sevier used aggressive tactics on social media over the weekend in defense of the legislation and Rep. Rakestraw, going as far as defaming dissidents by publicly accusing them of having an interest in child porn. His online name is ‘Chris Severe.’

Click to enlarge photos – Facebook screenshots from discussion on Rep. Rakestraw’s Facebook page.

The Road Ahead

Barring any attachment to legislation passed before Crossover Day, the fate of HB 509 in Georgia will likely be decided in 2018, which gives the organization and the lobbyists behind the cause ample time to register with the Georgia Ethics Commission.

You can read the original column here and learn more about the national movement here. The full text of the legislation is below.

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Jessica Szilagyi is statewide contributor for All On Georgia and Market Manager for Southeast Georgia. Her main focus with All On Georgia is state and local politics as well as agriculture. She’s served as a policy analyst at the State Capitol and as a campaign manager in political races across the state.

She writes for GeorgiaPol.com and has two blogs of her own: ‘The Perspicacious Conservative’, a political blog, and ‘Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers’, a blog on moving from Atlanta to rural Georgia. Jessica is also a contributor for Fox5 Atlanta’s ‘Like it Or Not.’

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