Michigan pols reheat Hot Coffee

Dems take online petition live; Governor adds voice to movement that seeks greater authority in game sales.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in Michigan this week stepped up an ongoing debate concerning who should police the sale of M-rated games: retailers, as is the case now, or state authorities. Also at stake are penalties that could be imposed on retailers who violate the letter of the law--if laws were to be passed.

Michigan Democrats are taking the lead in that effort, as well as tangentially related efforts to ensure that the "recall" of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is complete.

The state already has a history of trying to create laws governing the sale of certain games. On February 24 of this year, state Senator Hansen Clarke introduced Senate Bill 249. The bill would bar the sale or rental of "restricted video games" (those rated AO or M by the ESRB) to anyone under the age of 18. A violation would be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of $5,000, or both. The bill, in a slightly modified form, was passed by the Senate in May.

This week's actions are somewhat more benign.

The Associated Press is reporting that Senate Democrats said on Wednesday that the maker of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Take-Two Interactive, should recall the game and "urged retailers to pull it from their shelves." Of course, almost all retailers had previously done so. Nonetheless, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm sent a letter to approximately 60 retailers asking them to adopt policies of refusing to sell all adult-only-rated games.

The AP also reported that Senator Mark Schauer said the rating change did little to change his mind that the industry can no longer effectively regulate the sale of M- and AO-rated games. "It is disgusting that these types of images are available," he reportedly said. "It's pornography."

In addition, a number of Democrats in the Senate tried to give SB249 sharper teeth by backing a petition drive calculated to build public support for the legislation. The Web site shows a short video of in-game footage spliced together. The montage footage shows game characters is various acts of gritty, felonious, and scandalous behavior. When the video ends, viewers are able to add their name to the petition electronically.

The AP says a panel in the Michigan House is scrutinizing the legislation, vetting it so it can more effectively withstand any challenge brought by the ESRB, the ESA, or others.

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