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PA councillor scraps intrusive venue-licensing bill

Philadelphia City Council's Mark Squilla has killed a bill that would require the city's venues to provide the full names and addresses of performers to police on request

By Jon Chapple on 03 Feb 2016

Mark Squilla, David Oh, Philadelphia City Council, PhillyCAM

Philadelphia City councillors Mark Squilla (left) and David Oh

image © PhillyCAM

Mark Squilla, a member of Philadelphia City Council, has abandoned his support for a controversial bill that would compel the city’s music venues to provide the full names and addresses of all performers to police on request.

The councillor says he will withdraw the proposed legislation (known as bill 160016) and start afresh. “There’s been so much confusion and misinformation about the bill that, even if we struck that out, some people would show up to oppose it not understanding what they were opposing,” Squilla was quoted as saying by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A petition against the bill, Protect Philly’s Music!, has been signed by over 15,000 people. The petition’s creator, Larissa Sapko, says: “There is no reason for the Philadelphia Police [Department] to possess a registry containing the personal information of thousands of people simply because they are musicians. Not only is it unnecessary and likely to cause a massive administrative backlog, it’s a gross violation of our civil liberties.

“Philadelphia is currently one of the best cities in the country for live music – this bill would make it on of the worst.”

“We’re one of the top music cities in the United States, and what this did was put a negative spin on the city, which isn’t accurate”

Squilla announced the scrapping of the bill on Monday after meeting with 15 local live music industry personalities. He has agreed to consult with them when he draws up plans for replacement legislation.

David J. Spangenberg – aka local music biz guru Professor Pooch – says he believes Squilla was trying to regulate unscrupulous ‘fly-by-night’ venues but allowed the bill to grow unwieldy, says the Inquirer. This, coupled with the public outcry, meant the proposal “just had to be squashed”, says Spangenberg. “There was no way around it.”

If passed into law, the bill would have also required that venues pay US$100 per year for special-assembly occupancy licenses for shows attended by over 50 people.

Dyana Williams, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, praised Squilla for withdrawing the bill. She says: “We’re one of the top music cities in the United States, and what this did was put a negative spin on the city, which isn’t accurate.

“He was very sensitive and mindful. I believe he heard the outcries of the music community.”