Illinois game bill moves on, California bill halted

[UPDATE] Midwestern state bill voted onto State Senate with 6-2 approval; bill will allow state officials to impose ratings on games. West Coast legislation stalled.


The Safe Games Illinois Act is one step closer to becoming a law in the Prairie State. House Bill 4023 was approved, 6-2, in the state's Senate Housing and Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday and now moves on to the State Senate. Since its proposal last December, the bill has been readily approved through the legal process.

The bill would allow the state to slap its own ratings on games, ignoring those set by the self-regulatory Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). The bill concentrates on keeping violent games out of youngster's hands and severely fines retailers who fail to do so.

According to state legislators, games that feature "dismemberment, decapitation, disfigurement, maiming, mutilation of body parts or rape" would be slapped with an "18" sticker, similar to the parental advisory warning on compact discs. The sale of such games to a minor would warrant legal action of a $1,001 fine and a red mark on their permanent record. The current ESRB ratings system isn't legally binding.

The full spectrum of the bill's effects has not been set in stone. Governor Rod Blagojevich has not yet clarified the scope of the rating system or the financial penalties the legislation would incur. The bill's sponsor, Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville), has said that she will not bring the proposal to Senate vote until questions of the fines and labeling are made clearer.

[UPDATE] In California, it was a different story. Yesterday, CA AB450 was voted down by a committee of the California House of Representatives. The bill, written by San Francisco Democrat Assemblyman Leland Yee, proposed a fine of up to $1,000 for retailers found to have sold M-rated games to children under 17 years of age. The legislation had been compared to similar bills that prohibit the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors.

This is the second time that the California House Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media has failed to pass game-related legislation written by Yee. This time, the bill came close to passage, with a 5-4 vote against and one abstention, by Assemblyman Jerome Horton, a Democrat.

Six votes are necessary to push the bill to the House floor for deliberations, and if Horton can be convinced to vote in favor of it by the end of this week, a full house ratification could still be possible.

"We are pleased that the California House Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media did vote out AB450, the Yee bill which prohibits the sale of certain types of video games," said Marie Sylla, director of government relations and counsel for the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA). "It is evident that most of the committee members recognized the obvious flaw with the legislation--that it is wholly unconstitutional."

If CA AB450 is ultimately derailed at this point in time, it is expected that Yee will resubmit a revision of the bill sometime before the end of the year. The IEMA conceded this, saying, "It is likely that Assemblyman Yee will push for reconsideration on his bill. Retailers are making their best efforts to ensure that their stores are complying with their policy of carding for Mature-rated games and would like to be given the same opportunity as the movie theater owners and music retailers."

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