With a package of budget-balancing measures soundly defeated by California voters yesterday, the state is facing a $21.3 billion budget deficit. Despite that, the state is continuing its court battle with the Entertainment Software Association over a law to prevent the sale of violent games to children, a battle that has already cost the state more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The law's original author, State Senator Leland Yee, today announced that California has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the fight over the law. In 2007, a circuit court judge struck down the law as unconstitutional but admitted he was "sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do." In February, an appellate court judge backed up the original ruling. Months before the appellate court's decision, in an appearance on GameSpot's HotSpot podcast, Yee predicted that the dispute would be pushed to the Supreme Court.
Signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger but challenged in court before it could take effect, the bill sought to ban the sale or rental of "violent video games" to children. A "violent" game was defined as a "game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." Under the law, retailers that sold such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine.
The bill would also have required "violent" video games to bear a two-inch-by-two-inch sticker with a "solid white '18' outlined in black" on their front covers. That's more than twice the size of the labels that currently adorn game-box covers and display the familiar Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating.
"I signed this important measure to ensure parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children," Schwarzenegger said in a statement, adding, "I will continue to vigorously defend this law and protect the well-being of California's kids."
The Entertainment Software Association issued a statement of its own, unsurprisingly criticizing the state for pursuing the matter further.
"California's citizens should see this for what it is--a complete waste of the state's time and resources," ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher said. "California is facing a $21 billion budget shortfall coupled with high unemployment and home foreclosure rates. Rather than focus on these very real problems, Governor Schwarzenegger has recklessly decided to pursue wasteful, misguided, and pointless litigation."