SB 152, the Louisiana Senate bill drafted by Jack Thompson, underwent a rather odd hearing yesterday before the Senate's Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs Committe.
The bill, similar to one vetoed recently by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, would have made the sale of an age-restricted item to a minor a deceptive trade practice with potential civil penalties for the seller. As with his failed Utah legislation, Thompson's Louisiana bill was a roundabout way of legislating the ESRB rating system. Although SB 152 did not mention video games specifically, they were clearly the intended target.
However, at yesterday's hearing, bill sponsor Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) proposed amendments which essentially gutted the measure. Crowe told the committee that he "conferred with industry, with staff and with constitutional attornies" on the changes.
Crowe's amendments, which appeared to perplex his Senate colleagues, turned the focus of the bill from age-rated consumer items to pornography. Crowe noted that the original intent of the measure was to protect children from violent video games, but said that concerns over constitutional issues led him to focus on pornography instead.
The sale of pornography to minors is already illegal, however, leading Sen. Danny Martiny (R) to grill Crowe at length about the bill:
Why? What are we fixing? What we're doing here... is we're taking something that's already criminal and making it a deceptive trade practice...
It's not very clear at all where you're going with this...
Ultimately, Crowe voluntarily deferred the measure; the amendments changing its focus to pornography were not added. SB 152 remains listed with the Louisiana Senate but is not assigned to a committee. For now, at least, it appears sidetracked.
As for Thompson, he did not testify at the hearing, nor was his name mentioned. GamePolitics asked him to comment about SB 152 but the disbarred attorney declined.