The Utah legislature ended its 2006 general session with a flurry of activity last night, but one thing it didn't get around to doing was approving a bill that would make it illegal to show or sell violent games to children.
Utah HB 257 would have classified games containing inappropriate violence as "harmful to minors." Currently only material that is sexual in nature receives that designation from the state. The law originally would have applied to movies, music, and other media as well, but it was revised after failing to make it out of committee in its original form.
Under the state's current law for exposing minors to harmful material, each separate offense would be a third-degree felony with a minimum fine of $300 and imprisonment (with no option for a suspended sentence) of at least 14 days. If someone has already been convicted under the law once, however, the crime is then a second-degree felony with a minimum fine of $5,000 and at least a year in jail, again with no possibility of a suspended sentence. The bill makes no exception for parents or guardians.
With the session's midnight deadline looming, HB 257's original Senate sponsor last night proposed another revision to the bill. While Senator Darin G. Peterson's substitute bill would still have made it illegal to show violent games to minors, it would have relaxed state laws meant to restrict the distribution of obscene or pornographic material. Peterson's revisions would have eliminated the state's adult content registry (a public list of sites that offer minors unrestricted access to harmful material) and repealed laws requiring ISPs to offer blocking services for such sites.
Peterson's substitutions were not adopted, the bill never received a full vote from the Senate, and the bill was sent back to the House Rules Committee as the general session ended.