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Issue Date: Vol. 52, No. 3, March 2012, Posted On: 3/6/2012

Oklahoma Lawmakers Reject Proposed Videogame Taskforce

Marcus Webb
video game, video game violence, Oklahoma House, HB 2696, videogame content taskforce, William Fourkiller, videogame tax, Entertainment Software Rating Board, video game free-speech protection, First Amendment

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- By a 6-5 vote, members of a legislative subcommittee in the Oklahoma House on Feb. 20 defeated HB 2696, a bill proposed by state Rep. William Fourkiller (D-Stillwell) that would have created a permanent government taskforce to review videogame content and its impact on children.

An earlier version of the bill would have imposed a 1% sales tax on so-called "violent" videogames. The measure's original language defined "violent" games as "a video or computer game that has received teen, mature or adult ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board."

The bill was later broadened to include all videogames and to drop the tax. In arguing for the measure, Fourkiller pointed to the alleged role of videogames in contributing to inactive lifestyles, bullying and childhood obesity.

Opponents in the Legislature expressed concern about the creation of a permanent taskforce with quasi police powers. They also questioned the wisdom of singling out videogames for special attention while ignoring movies, rap music, the Internet and comic books, among other media.

The larger danger may be that lawmakers in Oklahoma and elsewhere may begin using "sin tax" policies to discourage or restrict the videogame industry, much as governments already do with liquor, cigarettes or other lawful activities that some segments of the population dislike.

According to Gamepolitics.com, a comparable state law to tax so-called "violent" videogames was proposed in New Mexico in 2008, but was similarly defeated.

As previously reported by VT, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2011 that videogames deserve free-speech protection under the First Amendment of the Constitution. | SEE STORY

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