Utah Committee Passes Revived Games-as-Porn Bill Despite Constitutional Concerns

November 16, 2006 -

It's a bill that failed to clear the Utah legislature earlier this year. 

It's a bill that Utah's Attorney General has said will likely fail if challenged in court.

It's a bill that is quite similar to the Jack Thompson-drafted Louisiana video game bill, currently blocked by a federal judge.

Despite these concerns, a committee of the Utah legislature yesterday approved a bill designed to prevent minors from accessing violent video games. As reported by the Deseret News, passage by the Judiciary Interim Committee allows the measure to be placed on the 2007 legislative calendar.

The bill, which would define violent games as "harmful to minors" in the same manner as pornography, was sponsored earlier this year by lame duck Republican David Hogue. The bill passed the Utah House overwhelmingly in February but was never considered by the State Senate. Seemingly a dead issue, the legislation was revived recently by Rep. Scott Wyatt (R).



Original sponsor Hogue said yesterday:

Somewhere we have to stand up as citizens and parents and legislators and say, 'That's enough.' I very seriously think that we need to push this forward and find if we're going to have a challenge or not and have the attorney general fight those battles."


Rep. Wyatt believes the bill could survive a constitutional challenge, but would withdraw it if appeared likely to fail in court. A game industry observer who was present at the hearing told GamePolitics that Wyatt could well be waiting on a final decision regarding the Louisiana law, currently blocked by preliminary injunction. Arguments in that case are scheduled to resume on November 29th.

Sen. Scott McCoy (D) expressed concern about wasting tax dollars on a court battle:

I certainly applaud the efforts and the sentiment to protect our kids, I think that is absolutely valid and an honorable goal. But I think it is incumbent on us to at least acknowledge that there are some high legal hurdles that stand in our way. ... Is this the way that we want to spend taxpayers' money?     

Comments

I'll add that it's interesting to see someone with a direct role in drafting and/or debating legislation following Gamepolitics. As for the need to go along to get along, I understand it but I still don't approve. While I have a great interest in politics (as in matters of public policy and the formation and enforcement of our laws), I absolutely -despise- politics (as in networking, glad-handing, building a base, etc, etc.). And yes, I know it's required for real success in almost every field, even in much of my proposed field (biochem and genetics research) when it comes to grants and tenure (if at university), or office politics (if working for a corporation or someplace like the SSCEN). I know... :P

I guess the Constuition has to take a back seat to "protect our children". I'm so sick of this crap. Makes me think in the future, some Constutional freedoms will be taken away from us.

So how would that work if he declares it's undefensable. Would the AG have to step aside if it got passed, since it's clear he already believes it's defeated in the eyes of the court?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@~the1jeffy

I disagree. He called the overarching goal (legislating video games) "valid" and "honorable", and therefore deserves no credit or respect in my books.

There is a middle ground here.
I believe there's a small group of parents (statistically large) that just doesn't care. They either see videogames as a necessary evil (their kids play games, and they accept it with some concern) or they actively don't care because they consumed some past "evil" without ill effect (music, movies, TV and early videogames.

Then there's the anti-videogame extreme. This is a very small group, based on my experience talking to non-gamers at PTA meetings and such, and they want censorship.

Then finally, there's this huge middle group who isn't being served by anyone in Government. These are the people who need help. They understand the ESRB ratings, but they want more information, they want to know more than the ESRB indicators. They also want to know about games other than GTA and Bully. This is the group everybody is ignoring because, well, they aren't squeaky wheels.

My own agenda aside (clearly GamerDad is set up to serve the third and underserved group), this group needs help. Better info. And this is where the real "battle" over videogame perception is taking place. I'm glad the ESRB is helping the national PTA and I hope to see more effort in that direction.

"I certainly applaud the efforts and the sentiment to protect our kids, I think that is absolutely valid and an honorable goal. But I think it is incumbent on us to at least acknowledge that there are some high legal hurdles that stand in our way. … Is this the way that we want to spend taxpayers’ money?"

This is shockingly true. I can't believe this came out of a mouth of a politician, let alone a Censorcrat. We should write this guy in support of this position. However, I wonder if he is resolute enough to vote No on it.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

It's like the bad neighbor who you've kicked out repeatedly but keeps coming back...

"Concerned for the children" my butt.

How sad, they still have delusions that the bill has a chance to pass the constitution test.

Siftr, sad as it is, they are well aware the bill doesn't have a chance. As has been said, this is just attention whoring, headline grabbing by politicans who don't wanna deal with real issues.

Nothing changes. Every other bill has died, this will to.

It's like a zombie bill, it keeps coming back! But no worries, this bill will get shot down just like the rest.

36, huh? That explains A LOT. =)

these people are retarded and out of touch,honestly,how stupid do you have to be to believe video games should be treated like pornography? and the fact they attack other politicians who actually have working brains and strike down censorship garbage just shows how immature you have to be in politics,this shouldnt be fuckin third grade,these morons need to grow up,but thinking and talking like an idiot destroyed most of their brain cells anyway

I do not have a pejorative in my vocabulary to express the sheer stupidity of this folly.

I thought they didn't like mixing video games and the undead? Yet they seem to keep winching up the lightning rods for this monster made out of dead parts.....

And Mr. McCoy, thanks very much for coming here and putting your two cents in. We need more level-headed people like you looking at issues rationally. Keep fighting the good fight against the agenda pushers and come visit this site again when you have time.

"@~the1jeffy

I disagree. He called the overarching goal (legislating video games) “valid” and “honorable”, and therefore deserves no credit or respect in my books."

I agree and second that opinion. This guy deserves no credit and respect. I was just about to make that same opinion until i read yours.

@Jabrwock: I think this discussion came up in a previous post. I'd like to say the conclusion was that, in accepting the post of AG, he defends what the state has declared is its interests in court. So, if the legislature decides they want video game censorship and the industry contests, he ensures the bill is defended regardless of his personal views. I doubt that means he has to do so personally, and I also doubt that means he has to devote the entire AG office resources to it - as long as he presents something substantial as a defense the state can't accuse him of not doing his job, and perhaps he can maintain a focus on other cases that he finds more deserving of the state's resources.

In regards to Sen. McCoy's statement: It's a nice bit of fence-sitting. "I want to save the children but this law is silly." He either is opposed to it and wants to save face with the anti-gamers or is for it but wants to distance himself so when it fails he can say it wasn't his fault. I'm inclined to guess the former but no way to tell unless it's determined that he has the political stones to vote against it.

@Josh
They already have. The Military Commissions act of 2006 that Bush signed a few weeks ago effectively eliminated habeas corpus. That's pretty much THE keystone of the Bill of Rights. It means that now,
ith the government really wants to, they can throw you in jail and hold you indefinitely and they don't even have to tell you why.

At least they are finally realizing that these laws are getting shot down. It's a start if anything and hopefully it will lead politicans to back off of the video game issue.

I'm not too concerned. Like everyone says it'll probably get shot down. Heck, even if it does get passed, it'll probably get overturned when people realize that the adolescent crime hasn't gone down. IMO, violent video games provide an outlet for kids to vent their aggravation, not to augment it.

I played violent video games for many years and it's good. Violent video games are good and Utah is a stupid state for doing this. Violent video games rock!!!! They should be protected under the Constitution of the United States and Utah must stop attacking violent video games. I played many M rated games when I was well underage and it never effected me at all. Violent video games should be marketed to everyone. People of all ages and I oppose this obsurd legislation.

@ Brer and Bigman,

Don't you think he has to preface the wasting taxpayer's money comment with, "I like to protect kids, too!" Otherwise, it's political suicide. At least Sen. Scott McCoy recognizes (or has a good legal advisor) the obvious "high hurdle" of the inevitable First Amendment challenge, and has gone on record as saying as much. Other such Senators in his position simply follow the politically safe path of, "Who cares if it's wasteful, I've got to pander to protecting the kids," or refuse to acknowledge the very Constitution that gives them their power.

I'm not saying I'm on board with his message, which I can assume (if he stays on-party) is one of: Tax dollars are beter spent on taking away parental responsibility than defending First Amendment court battles. He's at least half-way there - and I suggest we tell him as much.

When I started reading GP, I was shocked to find out how little our elected officials know about basic law - The US Constitution is fairly basic, as far as the Amendments are concerned. Now, a year or more later, it's the other way - I'm shocked to see one that has signs of at least understanding such basic law (or being told by a legal advisor). I should have clarified this, but I had a meeting to get to.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@~the1jeffy

Sometimes I wonder if some aren't ignorant, just realistic about politics. See the past midterm election as an example. Standing up for the constitution means you get attack ads that claim you voted against protecting the children from mental molestation and pleasurable vibrations...

So the new tactic is, vote for the law anyway so it can't be used against you, but announce in advance you figure the court will strike it down, thereby demonstrating that you're not a *complete* twit. I mean, what's $600,000 in tax dollars when your political career is at stake, right? ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Hello all,

Just to clarify my position on this bill and issue generally. I am not convinced that the science and research support a link between playing video games and real world behavior. The court cases that have looked at this question have actually concluded that there is no link. This has an impact on the constitutional analysis of whether the state has a compelling state interest it is balancing against the First Amendment right that is being abridged. I do not intend to vote for the bill when it comes to the Senate for this reason and because I think it will waste a lot of taxpayer dollars to defend only to ultimately lose. I would rather spend the quarter or half a million dollars on the real needs of the people of Utah. Unfortunately, the ultra-conservatives in the Utah have a mantra "We will not be detered by the threat of litigation!" We are the state afterall that basically tried to ban cable TV a decade or so ago. We idiotically took that one all the way to the US Supreme Court and (of course) lost. Price tag: over a million dollars.

Also, my comment about the goodness of the goal of protecting our children was not directed at the general public or my constituents. It was directed at my Republican colleagues who I have to work with if I want to get my proposed legislation passed. I will vote against the bill and I will explain why I did so to my constituents. If they don't get it, then they can vote me out of office. I think they will get it.

Assuming this is the real McCoy (pun intended, I have a penchant for poor puns). I do applaud the more responsible approach you are espousing in this post. Fix the real world issues like poverty, crime, parental neglect, etc. Allowing those societal changes to have the long term effect on our world at large. Keep it up, keep posting (assuming its really you :) ).

While i have serious doubts you're really Scott McCoy, if there is an off chance you really are, I sincerly applaude you and thank you for coming to mention your views on this legislation on this forum. If it's really you, then this must be the first time a government offical has posted here.

Hello all, again,

First, thank you to all those who posted your kind words. Second, it really is me. I am a the youngest member of the Utah State Senate at 36 years old. While not as much of a gamer these days, I have played a few games in my time. I also have acquaintances in the game developer community. This is actually a nacent industry here in the state of Utah. I follow many blogs and when my google alert popped up the original post here I came here and decided to join the conversation. Just so you know, I am an attroney by profession so I always am very concerned when we propose trampling on the Bill of Rights. Anyway, now I know you all are here, I will try and keep up with the discussion. The bill in Utah for now seems to be moving forward to the General Session in January. I will be watching closely what happens in Louisiana.

Scott

@Senator Scott McCoy (give him the benefit of the doubt guys!)

It's good to hear a politician willing to put his principles on the line. That's the kind of guts that gets you re-elected. Not this pandering to special interests groups just to squeeze a few extra votes out.

As an alternative to your Republican collegues tax dollar wastes, do you have a plan to help parents to understand the ratings on all media, so they can be empowered to make an informed decision themselves?

I always find it odd when Republicans advocate for "big intrusive government". It just goes against everything Republicans used to stand for...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Looking through Sen. McCoy's website, tells me that Utah is a very strange place. ;)

He has opposed bans on gay marriage, opposed Intelligent Design's attempts to subvert Biology class, proposed bans on torture, proposes universal health care & insurance, defends the constitution, AND still manages to earn respect from both sides, while still getting re-elected with nearly 70% of the vote?

Wow.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Jabr, not only that, but he took the time to come here (or at least have a staffer post in his name) and back up his statements.

I find that very worthy of respect.

@McCoy

I know many others here have posted this already, but I think it's really great of you to take the time to post here and clarify your statements. This makes you the first (to my knowledge) politician to actually do that. The fact that none of the politicians talking about game legislation talk to US, the gamers, just shows that they don't listen to those that are affected by their decisions. But you are different, and if your statements are indeed truthful, then you have my respect.

P.S. How did you learn of this article? Have you ever been to this site before, or did someone else tell you?

I still call Bullshit until they do the same for movies, TV, and music.

@Phantom

not only that, but he took the time to come here ... and back up his statements.

That too. Has someone been spiking my coffee today? This shouldn't be happening. ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

to say it simply, this shit is getting way to old.

Dave
because they aways need "I DID THIS" badge.

it might be a non issue be remember they will always but off needed things for crap like this look at Louisiana...

I know i'm going to sound like a little kid but, YEAH!!! we have a politican on our side. Woopie!!!!

"Quick! We took huge losses in the 2006 federal elections, we need to find some issues to completely torpedo our party!"

This is agonizing. Videogame legislation is a non-issue. There are far more pressing concerns, and State Senator Hogue knows it. Why waste his last few months on something as stupid and petty as this?

McCoy
darn it I have a itchy post button >>

thanks for stopping by and returning please do come back so we all can enlighten you some more :P

McCoy
You can doubt all the research about games and violence being non harmful all you want but until you address the core of the matter the constitutionality of it by supporting the passing of a fou bill just shows anyone is more for boosting their rep as a politician than affecting the matter in a coherent and helpful way.

Since the ESRB is doing a better job on games than the MPAA is doing with movies politicians have 2 choices hands off or censorship,cant be hands off because of vote pandering cant censor games alone,if you then censor all media for the protection of youth then what country are we going to be in,it will not be the USA.if we are so "protective" of our youth why the hell not do what holland dose and ban all advertisings to kids ?why because this the USA thats why people even kids have they right to screw themselfs up with parental guidance its one of the many freedomes we hold dear....you cant do jack about it unless you change the USA into the EU where the goverment rules almost completely...


The most I can see the government doing is creating a board like the FCC that can fine and investigate matters involving the selling of age rated material to underage people but even that is is akin to McCarthyism...its one thing to censor what goes over the free air waves its another to censor what you buy.
 
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