The Minnesota House of Representatives has passed a new bill which proposes a USD 25 civil penalty for minors who knowingly buy or rent Mature or Adult Only ESRB-rated videogames.
Taking note of the recent failed legislative proposals in other US states, Republican representative Jeff Johnson's bill would not impose fines on retailers and merchants, but simply requires videogames outlets to clearly display ESRB ratings signs and information - which is something the majority of stores already comply with under the industry's self regulatory system.
Johnson, who is running for Attorney General, told Minnesota Public Radio: "We were trying to pass the narrowest bill possible just to try something different from a constitutional challenge standpoint," but admits that he fully expects the ESA to challenge the proposal and already foresees the potential legal obstacles in attempting to secure the bill's implementation into law.
"There are two potential constitutional problems," Johnson stated. "One is that we are using the ESRB ratings. I can see a court saying you can't use private industry to create the law, but there's no way around that because everything else anyone has tried has been unsuccessful."
Johnson's second issue is one which has overshadowed each of the videogames legislation proposals, regardless of their constitutional validity, in that "so far no court has found a strong enough link" between violent or graphic videogames and youth violence or aggressive, anti-social behaviour.
The Minnesota bill will become law on August 1st if it is signed by the Governor and withstands any legal challenge in the interim. Whilst the attempt to penalise consumers for infractions of ESRB ratings is an unusual step to take, it is at the very least a move towards working with the industry regulated videogames ratings rather than simply overruling or replacing them.
That said, the constitutional foundations and the evidentiary basis for political intervention in the sale or rental of videogames in the US remain arguably unsound and it is highly likely that another court ruling will see the bill overturned.