Utah House Committee Puts Brakes on Video Game Bill

January 27, 2007 -

It looks like game over for HB50, Rep. Scott Wyatt's proposed video game legislation.

The Public Utilities and Technology Committee of the Utah House of Representatives voted 7-2 to place the bill on hold, thus blocking it from consideration by the full House.

As reported by the Deseret News, Rep. Kay McIff proposed a compromise solution in which, instead of HB50, a resolution would affirm the elected officials' concerns over protecting children from video game violence without creating any legal restrictions. The resolution would also direct Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to lend support to other states which are involved in court challenges to video game legislation. Such support could take the form of amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" briefs. Said McIff:

I am concerned when all the legal experts, including our own attorney general as well as the sponsor, tell us that the bill is likely to fail in a constitutional challenge. One where we cannot control the amount we spend, because we spend our side and then we are potentially obliged to spend the legal costs of the other side.


Among those speaking at Friday's hearing were Scott Sabey, a lobbyist representing the ESA, Maryann Christensen of the Utah Eagle Forum and Rhonda Rose of the Utah PTA. Sabey testified:

If I choose to play (World War II shooter Call of Duty) with my son because I want him to understand the effect of the second world war, your legislation would subject me to a third-degree felony.


Said the PTA's Rhonda Rose:

We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos... We want laws that protect our children and our families.


Committee member Rep. Steven Mascaro had mixed feelings on the proposed legislation:

I'm not conflicted that there's a problem, (but) you've got to be careful about killing flies with sledgehammers.


Bill sponsor Wyatt  (seen at left) told the committee:

I believe as a legislature we do more than pass laws... As a result of this bill, positive things have happened... Although the bill presents a risky proposition, the harm is far more risky... I want to be engaged in this battle. I want the state of Utah to be engaged in this battle.


The committee will take up the matter again on Tuesday. More coverage can be found in the Provo Daily Herald and Salt Lake Tribune.

Audio of Friday's hearing can be found on the committee's website (RealPlayer format). GamePolitics has also created an mp3 of the hearing which can be found here (about 66megs).


Comments

Some one from the committee will attempt to create a resolution (that i understood) to satisfy both sides before Tuesday.

If the resolution is "stop wasting taxpayer's money and keep the ESRB system", then that's fine.

@vellocet - I did notice that. In fact I pulled that portion of the audio and plan to write something on it for tomorrow or Monday.

@nightwng2000

I guess anything COULD happen on Tuesday when they get back together, but it was pretty clearly the intent of the committe not to pass Wyatt's bill in favor of the resolution proposed by McIff...

Did you guys happen to notice how Bully and Super Columbine Massacre have been confused in the minds of those who are uninformed? This is incredibly dangerous.

It never occurred to me that JT's talk of Bully being a Columbine simulator could be taken seriously. But with the news coverage of SCMRPG, I can see how a nongamer would naturally associate the two.

[...] The Public Utilities and Technology Committee of Utah’s House of Representatives placed Rep. Scott Wyatt’s video game bill on hold. Wyatt’s bill is another in a long list of “games-as-porn” bills, “protecting children from video game violence.” The bill has been on shaky ground since Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he had serious concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, which is similar to others that have been dismissed. [...]

I actually thought the three quotes represented very well the three stances in this debate. Sabey says such legislation is silly; Rose wants to 'protect teh childrenz'; and Mascaro takes the viewpoint that I imagine a lot of moderate citizens would take - that kids shouldn't be playing some video games but that legislation isn't the solution, especially to something that hardly qualifies as a legitimate 'problem.'
::shrugs:: He at least represents my viewpoint very well... and I like the 'flies with sledgehammers' quote.

“Maryann Christensen of the Utah Eagle Forum handed the committee a map that detailed incidents of school violence. She told the committee that 28 instances of school violence over the past decade were connected to kids playing violent video games.
“These are our little boys,” she said of the offenders.”

For all we know, this could be completely true. Like 28 game disc throwings, fist fights or the breaking open of pinatas (in copycat fashion of Viva Pinata). We all know here that the link between video games and school shooting is thin at best. She could be telling the truths if she refers to 28 pinata related violence or complete lies if she refers to 28 school shootings since it's not specified what kind of violence she was talking about.

Hehe flies with a sledge hammer. Never heard that one before.

@Dan... which audio did you listen to? Both the RealPlayer link and the mp3 seem to work fine for me...

GP,
"Said the PTA’s Rhonda Rose:

We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos… We want laws that protect our children and our families."

Isn't this a departure from the National PTA's stance on Education over Legislation?

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Stop being so cynical. All of you. *angry*


This is a breakthrough. The politicians ACTULLY decided to not pass this bill. We have people WITH COMMON SENCE now.

If anything, we should be rejoicing.

I'm glad that some of Utah's representatives have some common sense, but it seems as though some people still place not having to watch their kids at a higher importance than the freedoms of parents and children alike.

I'm not sure I read it as a defeat of the bill.

"The Public Utilities and Technology Committee of the Utah House of Representatives voted 7-2 to place the bill on hold, thus blocking it from consideration by the full House."

On hold.

"The committee will take up the matter again on Tuesday."

So it isn't over, just on hold til Tuesday?

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

When you don't even know the proper name of what you wish to ban/legislate/fight, you are destined to lose. To call them "videos" in this day in age indicates being stuck under a rock for the last 10 years.

I listened to the audio and I could not here anything about it. They talked mostly about trade in other countries.

I need a little clarification here. I already know that it would be Shurtleff's duty to defend the law if it were passed in Utah, but am I to understand this right when they say they can pass a resolution that forces him to help defend these same laws in other states?

I have a hard time believing that is a power these committees hold over such a position, and it would instead seem to me that these guys want him removed for arguing against their ideals.

Please tell me I got this all wrong!

Cue John Bruce Thompson temper tantrum in 3, 2, 1...

"Maryann Christensen of the Utah Eagle Forum handed the committee a map that detailed incidents of school violence. She told the committee that 28 instances of school violence over the past decade were connected to kids playing violent video games.
"These are our little boys," she said of the offenders."

Umm...what? Most of the perpatrators of these shootings were A)In their late teens or early adulthood; and B)Were already suffering from some kind of mental or emotional disorder. I'd hardly call those people "innocent, sweet little boys corrupted by t3h ev1l video game thingies." I wish these people would understand that a tenous (at best) link drawn up mostly by sensational media outlets and shameless agenda pushers does not equal a definite causal realtionship.

On top of that, the FBI, when it investigated the trend of school shootings following Columbine, concluded from the data they had that there was no particualr cause of these shootings in ANY individual case they studied. The FBI also found that out of these school shooters, only a minority of them played violent video games (can't find the percentage as of now, but I know I have seen it).

Sorry, Christensen, but you'll obviously have to do better than that if you want to convince people that violent games (and no other form of violent media) turn sweet little angels into cop-killing psychopaths.

Scott Sabey makes an intelligent point, summing up both parental guidance and the artistic validity of the medium. Rhonda Rose doesn't even know what she's complaining about, resorting to hand-washing, emotional hyperbole and using entirely wrong terminology.

I think those two quotes sum up the whole debate on the entire issue.

"We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos… We want laws that protect our children and our families."

And how exactly can they walk into a store and purchase "videos"? Do they happen to have $60+ sitting in their pockets? Do they have the means to get to stores?

And no, Miss Rose, not everyone wants unconstitutional legislation that will get struck down anyway, costing you and all the other taxpayers n Utah. You do not deide what we want. (Who is Rose, anyway? Is she of any real importance?)

"We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos…"


Then why don't YOU stop them from going into the store and purchasing them? Oh, yeah, you're too preoccupied to do that, what with having your head stuck up your ass.

Also, what's up with people calling them 'videos'? It makes it look like they're debating violent MOVIES....

"As far as lobbyists, I think they are all pretty much hired guns, not gamers."

Better a non-gamer hired gun than nothing.

@TJ

I think somewhere else during the hearing he mentioned that his son was 9.

As far as lobbyists, I think they are all pretty much hired guns, not gamers. I will say that I watch and listen to a lot of these hearings and Sabey is one of the two sharpest I've heard yet. Often they let the most outrageous claims go by.

For example, if you listen to the "Bully as Columbine Game" audio, that guy from the Utah Retailers would have let that claim go right by. He just had no clue.

Scott Sabey - "If I choose to play (World War II shooter Call of Duty) with my son because I want him to understand the effect of the second world war, your legislation would subject me to a third-degree felony."

I think he should have saids his son's age when making that claim, because I'm not entirely comfortable with that statement.

We all know that Call of Duty is a Teen-rated series and that these proposals in various states are not specifically targeting Teen, E10 and E-rated games. They're targeting M-rated and AO-rated games. A better, clearer example would have been to said the Brothers in Arms World War II shooter games, or to say his son's age.

I guess I'm a little sensitive when it comes to lobbying efforts. I just don't ever want the game industry's efforts to have its voice and agenda heard to ever sink down to the abysmal levels we see in Washington with other lobbying bodies.

@Daniel

Actually... the only person who gets all "riled up" anymore is you.

"We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos… We want laws that protect our children and our families."

What the hell is she doing on the PTA if she isn't a parent?

On am ore serious note, I liked the sledgehammer and fly analogy. Sums up this "debate" pretty well.

@Daniel F

Last year the Utah House of Representatives passed almost the exact same law, 56-8, and was saved at the last minute from vote on the Senate floor because time was running out on the session and more important bills had to be addressed. I have every reason to believe that if the Senate had had the chance to vote on it, Utah would be forking money over to the ESA just like other states have done.

BTW, has Illinois gotten around to paying their bill yet?

Hooray for Utah - they actually went above my expectations and did something that makes sense!

I expect an angry email from JT accusing half the Utah legislature of being in cahoots with the gaming industry, and not caring about the children, within 2 days.

damn...you know your bill is crap when even a person in the eagle forum says its too controlling...

"you’ve got to be careful about killing flies with sledgehammers."

My sentiments exactly.

"We need these children not to be able to walk into the store and purchase these videos… We want laws that protect our children and our families."

How about actually keeping an eye on what your goddamn kid does?

On a positive note, I congratulate politicians for growing half a brain cell and realizing that a bill like this would never fly. And a big shout out to Utah which gets to keep its taxpayer money by preventing a huge lawsuit that they had no hopes of winning. Also, I don't know why they would do the Shurtleff thing, but I hope that his advice each time is: "Don't pass the bill to begin with. If you have, repeal it and try to wwork with the game companies to make the punishment as small as possible."

I'd also like to echo sentiments mentioned earlier in the comments - give the Utah legislature some credit where it's due, folks. One representative suggested the video game laws, but the assembly as a whole is deciding not to pursue the measure. I'm not sure if the assembly as a whole has ever done something to demonstrate their utter foolishness, so I'd say all this talk about them 'finally growing a brain' is a bit misplaced.

God they still called Bully "the columbine game" *sighs*

FINED FOR WATCHING A VIOLENT GAME???? So watching a violent movie is A OK but a game is a no no?

Could someone clarify this for me. during the debate the other day ,i noticed that someone had mentioned Lousianas law having been put in a Temp Injunction. Correct me if Im wrong, but, wasn't that law put in a Permanat injunction?

I know the Californa bill is still in the courts, and has been for nearly a year now. but Other then that one I thought all other bills were dead?

I don't know if people realize the significant of such rulings, this is the beginning of the end for these bills. The state legislatures are starting to police themselves. Don't doubt for one second that this bill wouldn't have passed unanimously a year or two ago. Now they realize they're going to face a legal battle and most likely lose in courts so they're putting the breaks themselves. Kudos for the ESA, Doug Lowenstein, and others who led the early fights against these bills (and made states pay the legal fees when they lost) because if those bills were not struck down, every state (and every ambitious politician) would have jumped on the bandwagon and we would have seen all kinds of crazy laws.

I wonder if JT realizes it's the beginning of the end for his crusade at the state level as well? Will he ever find a supporting state attorney general to defend his cause?

I listened to the whole thing, and the testimony by the Eagle Forum and PTA women really stuck in my craw. The Eagle Forum representative tried to make the killers out as the victims, which is just distorted and wrong. She tried to say that the games turn angels into demons, which is something even JT concedes is not the case. Those kids made a conscious decision to take someone's life; she made it sound like the games had some sort of mind control where they couldn't prevent their hands from picking up the gun and squeezing the trigger.

And the testimony from Rose (the PTA representative) was just moralistic and not based in logic, something an organization like that should not be dealing in. We get the alcohol/tobacco comparison yet again. It's sad that the PTA is just jumping on the bash games bandwagon, which is why I'm not entirely convinced by Hal Halpin's statement that most parents are well educated about video games and their effects.

Yuki-the bills in California and Oklahoma have injunctions and are awaiting final decision. All the rest have been defeated for good.

[...] The Public Utilities and Technology Committee of Utah’s House of Representatives placed Rep. Scott Wyatt’s video game bill on hold. Wyatt’s bill is another in a long list of “games-as-porn” bills, “protecting children from video game violence.” The bill has been on shaky ground since Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said he had serious concerns about the constitutionality of the bill, which is similar to others that have been dismissed. [...]

polticans with common sense not pass anti video game legsltation?!? Man, I need to lay off the mustard!!!!

I don't understand why they don't just submit legislation to ban the same of games rated "M" and up to minor in much the same fasion that childeren under the age of 17 are not admitted to an "R" rated movie without an adult? Seems to me this would fix the issue with children obtaining inappropriate games without an adult's concent and leave the game developers free to publish whatever they see fit to. We already have a rating system in place, why not simply enforce it?
 
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