February 3rd, 2012

Your tax dollars at waste

Published at 1:51 PM PST

If you live in either California or Oklahoma, your tax dollars have recently been used in attempt to ban "violent video games". Here's the latest tax wasting, first amendment violating, laws that have tried to been passed in the respective states.

Back in 2005, Senator Leland Yee and his peace loving buddy Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (you know, that guy from the children's movie The Terminator) introduced and signed bill AB1179, which banned the sale of "violent" video games to anyone under 18. Anyone caught, no matter if it was knowingly or unknowingly, would be fined $1,000 for each video game sold. The ESA and the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) fought to have the bill overturned. 

During the court hearings in 2007, Schwarzenegger stated that he intended to  "vigorously defend this law" and that California has  "a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions." To our knowledge, he hasn't spoke out against his violent movies, which feature the same or in some cases more violence and gore than the video games he was so desperate to "protect" kids from. Later in 2007, the court ruled at the law obviously violated the First Amendment.

The judgement was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court but was affirmed in 2009. Undeterred, Schwarzenegger once again decided to waste tax dollars and decided to appeal the case to the Supreme Court in May 2009. A few years later in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled the law as unconstitutional on the basis of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

In January of this year, the bankrupt state of California had to agree to pay the Entertainment Software Association $950,000 in legal fees from the supreme court case. This is on top of the legal reimbursements from the 2008 case against video games, bringing the total California has paid the ESA to $1,327,000. The ESA has plans to donate some of the money to "develop after-school educational programs for undeserved communities in Oakland and Sacramento", where that money should have went in the first place instead of being used to fight against people's rights. The money paid to the ESA is just the beginning, California also has to front the costs of the resources wasted during the cases. which is likely more than what they had to pay to the ESA.

Apparently someone didn't get the memo from the California cases. Oklahoma State Representative Will Fourkiller (and apparent Geo Cities user) has introduced bill HB2696, which proposes an excise tax of 1% on "violent video games". The bill defines "violent" video games as anything with a ESRB rating of Teen or higher. This means games such as Guitar Hero, The Sims and many gambling games would be placed on the same "violence" level as say Manhunt or Postal. 

The bill states that proceeds from the tax would go into new funds dedicated to childhood outdoor education and preventing bullying. While that's a good cause, the money should be taken from the funds and Fourkiller's own salary that will be, and all ready has been, wasted on the mere drafting and proposal of this bill, not a tax on our rights.

In a statement to Ars Technica, Fourkiller stated "Not everybody is going to react the same, but I believe after hours and hours of watching the screen, playing the video game, being that person and taking on that role, people get desensitized." Ars has asked Fourkiller for clarification on his statement, but has not yet responded.

The best part of this bill is that Fourkiller has introduced it under the emergency rules clause. Fourkiller's reason for this is because  it is "immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety." The bill is scheduled to be read on the House floor next week.


These two states are not the first to introduce tax wasting laws and apparently won't be the last. If you live in the United States, please stop voting for people like Leland Yee, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Will Fourkiller. The only way they'll learn is when they are unable to spend anymore of your hard-earned tax dollars on useless laws that will never be passed.

Sources: ESA, Joystiq, Ars Technica