Utah House Committee Puts Brakes on Video Game Bill

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).

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