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California taxpayers reimburse ESA $1.3M after SCOTUS defeat

California taxpayers reimburse ESA $1.3M after SCOTUS defeat

January 26, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

The state of California agreed to pay $950,000 -- collected from taxpayers -- to the Entertainment Software Association to reimburse legal fees spent on fighting last year's failed video game law.

Trade body group ESA took this announcement as an opportunity to chide the law's sponsor State Senator Leland Yee and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appealed the decisions of lower courts that struck it down, for wasting taxpayer funds in their "ill-fated attempt to impose clearly unconstitutional regulations on video games."

It also reminded the state that in 2009, while Yee and Schwarzenegger were seeking to impose regulations that could potentially harm the video game industry, that same industry contributed $2.1 billion to California's economy, and employed nearly 53,000 workers there.

Last June, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of overturning the 2005 law enacted in California that banned the sale of violent video games to minors without parents' approval, finding it unconstitutional and ruling that video games qualify for First Amendment protections. ESA served as the lead respondent in defending the rights of video game makers and consumers during the case.

The U.S. association already received payments from the state for legal fees incurred from two lower court rulings, but this agreement brings the reimbursement total from California to $1,327,000. ESA points out that it's received $1,773,000 in reimbursements from other states that have attempted to regulate video games, bringing its total received so far to $3.1 million.

"Senator Yee and Governor Schwarzenegger wasted more than $1 million in taxpayer funds at a time when Californians could ill afford it," said ESA president and CEO Michael D. Gallagher. "However we feel strongly that some of these funds should be used to improve services for California's youth."

ESA announced that it will donate a portion of the reimbursement to develop after-school educational programs in Oakland and Sacramento, part of a new charitable education initiative that launches in spring. It says the initiative is designed to "harness young peoples' natural passion for playing and making video games and connect them to the development of critical 21st Century job skills."

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