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Florida Jumps on Video Game Law Bandwagon

31 Oct, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

Florida now joins 20 other states that have legislation pending that would restrict the sale or rental to minors of so-called violent video games.

Last week, Florida state senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) introduced SB 492, which calls for video games deemed to be “especially heinous, cruel or depraved” in depicting violence against human characters, be labeled by suppliers as such and that retailers caught renting or selling such games to minors be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000.

The bill is a near clone of legislation recently passed in California, and industry trade groups, including the Video Software Dealers Association, are fighting the bills as being unconstitutional and unnecessary.

“S.B. 492 is modeled after, and suffers from the same defects as the recently enacted California video game restriction law,” said Sean Bersell, VP of public affairs for the VSDA. The VSDA has joined the Entertainment Software Association to fight California in court over the new law, as well as similar laws passed in Michigan and Illinois. Both groups are lining up against the Florida bill as well.

Bersell said the Florida bill, like its California counterpart, is “inartfully drafted that no game manufacturer or retailer can determine which games are covered and which are not,” under the proposed law. Bersell noted that federal courts have overturned similar measures on First Amendment grounds in three other jurisdictions in the past four years. He also believes the bills are unnecessary in light of the existing ESRB video game ratings enforcement programs of retailers.

According to the VSDA there have now been 68 video game-related measures introduced in 21 states, the U.S. Congress, the District of Columbia and the cities of New York and Chicago in the 2005-06 legislative sessions.

Portilla has been mired in a recent court battle over allegations he violated state campaign finance laws in not reporting cash donations and various expenditures. Many of the charges were dropped but Portilla has been resisting a court order to pay a $17,000 fine on the grounds of poverty.

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