Careful readers will recall the news that Oklahoma was considering levying a 1% tax on all “violent” video games. According to the bill’s sponsor, Will Fourkiller (D, pictured left), money raised by the bill would fight childhood obesity by providing outdoor education and also fund efforts to prevent bullying. The bill was defeated in a 5-6 vote in the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation last week.
While assuredly well-intentioned, the bill broadly defined violent video games as anything rated “T” or higher by the ESRB. While this would have netted a number of gory shooters, it also included rather innocuous titles like Rock Band and even exercise games like Zumba Fitness 2.
According to the Oklahoma Watchdog website, Fourkiller had already started to backpedal on the bill by the time it reached the subcommittee. When introducing the bill, Fourkiller said the instead of levying a tax he instead wanted to create a task force to explore combating childhood obesity and bullying. However, that did not prevent Representative Pat Owenby (R) and Oklahoma City rep Mike Reynolds (R) from ripping into the idea.
Reynolds: I don’t see many task forces that meet beyond the legislative session. What do you hope to accomplish?
Forkiller [sic]: ways to curb childhood obesity and also bullying that go on today.
Reynolds: so you’re saying video games lead to obesity?
Fourkiller: they can contribute to obesity.
Ownbey: why just video games? Why not French fries or rap music or movies?
Fourkiller: we have to start somewhere. There’s no magic bullet that will solve these issues, but I want to raise awareness of these two issues.
Interestingly, the defeat of the bill might have turned out to be a good thing for the state of Oklahoma. Not only has it prevented raising the ire of the nerds, it also could have run afoul of a supreme court decision against a similar California bill that, as Ars Technica reports, ended up costing that state $1.8 million.
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