It's game over in Utah, for now. Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (R) has vetoed the video game and movie retail restriction bill, which would have enforced strict penalties on retailers who sell M-rated games (and R-rated movies) to "buyers subject to an age restriction or recommendation."
The legislation (HB 353), authored by Jack Thompson and legislator Mike Morle, recently swept the Utah House of Representatives by a 25 to four margin. According to GamePolitics, Jack Thompson claims the backers of the bill will seek an override of the veto.
In a letter explaining his reasons for the veto, Huntsman says HB 353 would likely "be struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause and/or the First Amendment." Huntsman estimates that a possible "unintended consequence" of passing the legislation would be that the industries most affected could choose to forgo the use of "age appropriate labels on goods and services," because of their voluntary nature -- hurting families in the long run. Huntsman full letter can be read after the break.
Update: Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA has responded to the news in a comment, found after the break.
March 25, 2009
Dear Speaker Clark and President Waddoups,
After careful consideration and study, I have decided to veto HB 353, TRUTH IN ADVERTISING ACT AMENDMENTS, and have transmitted it to the Lieutenant Governor for filing.
While protecting children from inappropriate materials is a laudable goal, the language of this bill is so broad that it likely will be struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause and/or the First Amendment.
The industries most affected by this new requirement indicated that rather than risk being held liable under this bill, they would likely choose to no longer issue age appropriate labels on goods and services. Therefore, the unintended consequence of the bill would be that parents and children would have no labels to guide them in determining the age appropriateness of the goods or service, thereby increasing children's potential exposure to something they or their parents would have otherwise determined was inappropriate under the voluntary labeling system now being recognized and embraced by a significant majority of vendors.
Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.
Update: Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA responded to the news saying, "This is an absolute win for families. Utah's parents will benefit from Governor Huntsman's leadership and thoughtfulness on this issue. His decisive action helps caregivers and prevents businesses from being opened to unproductive, wasteful civil litigation and needless expense. Parents can be assured that the strength of the ESRB rating system remains intact and continues to serve as a valuable resource and will continue to effectively serve them."