Minnesota Public Radio has reported that the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed Republican Representative Jeff Johnson's HF1298 bill, which requires retail outlets to put up signs that explain the ESRB rating system, something many stores already do.
In addition, while previous similar bills have included proposed fines for retailers who sell inappropriate games to minors, should this bill become a law, HF1298 would instead mandate a $25 civil penalty against anyone underage who purchases a M or AO-rated game. However, Johnson, who's running for attorney general, indicated that as he is not trying to criminalize video games, such offenses would not go on the child's record.
According to MPR, Representative Barb Goodwin of DFL-Columbia Heights attempted to amend the bill so that it would also hold retailers accountable for selling the games to minors, claiming that levying a fine against the minor who purchased the game is unjust, stating: "it's the retailers that know what these games are. It's the retailers that buy the games or rent the games that know what they've got there. If they choose to rent those to children then they ought to pay the fine. They are the ones profiting off of it."
When contacted by website GamePolitics.com
, Representative Johnson commented: "We were trying to pass the narrowest bill possible just to try something different from a constitutional challenge standpoint." He then explained that the bill itself is expected to be passed on Saturday, after which it will be sent to Governor Tim Pawlenty to be signed.
Johnson also noted that he expects the video game industry, notably the ESA, which has been instrumental in the striking down of other bills on First Amendment grounds, to respond.
"There are two potential constitutional problems," Johnson told the website. "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. The other piece is that so far no court has found a strong enough link (between game violence and youth violence)."