Rhode Island Legislator Proposes A Tax On Video Games Based On Existing Entirely Voluntary Ratings System

from the e-for-everything dept

Violent video games may not cause violent people, despite what some people think, but we can certainly point out that they make a certain class of people very, very stupid. That class is the political class. Every time some violent happening occurs in America, the reaction by grandstanding politicians with no imagination is to lash out at video games for causing all the world's violence, to propose such games be banned entirely, or to propose a tax on them. On the question of taxing or banning these games, these politicians fortunately run face-first into the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's 2011 decision that video games are art, they are speech, and the government can't infringe upon that speech.

Sadly, it doesn't keep some from trying. In the wake of the tragedy in Florida, one Rhode Island state representative announced new proposed legislation that would tax games with an "M" rating or higher.

Representative Robert Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28, Coventry) will introduce legislation to increase mental health and counseling resources in schools by implementing a tax on video games rated "M" or higher.

"There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not," stated Rep. Nardolillo. "This bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way."

Because states cannot ban the sale of certain video games to minors, Rep. Nardolillo's proposal would instead allocate money to counteract the aggression they may cause. The legislation would levy an additional 10% tax to video games sold in Rhode Island with a rating of "M" or higher. Revenue generated by this tax would then be placed in a special account for school districts to use to fund counseling, mental health programs, and other conflict resolution activities.

Except he cannot tax these games for the very same reason. Taxing speech is a thing we don't do and is flatly prohibited by the First Amendment. So, to be clear, this legislation likely won't pass and, if it did, it would be quickly overturned by the court system.

Which isn't the only reason why the proposed legislation is stupid. The idea of taxing video games based on ESRB ratings should immediately strike everyone as inherently problematic. The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a non-profit group set up by the video game industry. Submissions for a rating are entirely voluntary. If this bill were to pass and be allowed to exist, the ESRB could simply refuse to rate games "M" or above. Or, game publishers could simply stop submitting for a rating. The ESRB ratings are the creation of the gaming industry. Trying to weaponize the industry against itself for the purpose of collecting tax revenue over dubious reasoning is a hilariously bad plan.

Again, that's almost certainly besides the point, as taxes on video games like this are almost certainly unconstitutional. Still, it's worth pointing out just how little our legislators seem to understand the industries and art over which they attempt to loom.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 2:49am

    Providing widespread mental care that would certainly help the incredibly tiny portion of gamers that can't separate reality from fantasy and which would probably help reduce other crimes like school shootings must be too Communist. Better let it happen and blame unrelated 3rd parties, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:22am

    Not you too!

    Violent video games may not cause violent people, despite what some people think, but we can certainly point out that they make a certain class of people very, very stupid. That class is the political class.

    Can we please stop blaming video games for preexisting conditions? Pretty please?

    Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:45am

      Re: Not you too!

      I'm sorry, you're request is denied as it does not fit into the Old White Guy (who probably doesn't play these games) point of view. I imagine they spout things like:

      "If you play violent games then by default you must be a violent person. Therefore we must protect you from yourself of being violent by denying you something that causes you to be violent. Thus in the end, by saying we shouldn't ban these games you must be violent and need protection. I've proven my point."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:13am

      Re: Not you too!

      Whoa Nellie

      What condition might that be?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:23am

    There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not

    Then tax shitty parenting instead. You'll make a whole hell of a lot more money that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 5:29am

      Re:

      Except that raising general taxes is the ONE SINGLE WAY to wind up getting voted out. You can do literally ANYTHING else while in office and keep getting voted in, but taxing your voting block is Forbidden... unless it's to pay for a new football stadium or NASCAR track. ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 6:45am

      Punitive Tax

      Rep. Nardolillo is actually proposing a "Punitive Tax" on some video games to reduce their availability/purchases in the market.

      You get less of anything you tax. A tax raises the sale price.

      Use of government tax-authority to "punish" people is fundamentally unjust and unconstitutional. Politicians are effectively imposing punitive fines on behavior they don't like... without the slightest hint of judicial Due Process or conviction of any crime.

      Of course, punitive taxes exist throughout the American tax codes -- a symbol of fundamental political corruption.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      I'm sure that would be fairly implemented amongst the social classes .... not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:51am

    The question is, where else could they get the funding? 'Counselling, mental health programs, and other conflict resolution activities' sounds like something worthwhile to spend tax money on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 4:44am

      Re:

      The politicians could always cut their own salaries and funnel the extra funds into public health funding.

      They won’t, of course, but they could.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      They can get the money from any other arbitrary source. Why should there be a 10% tax on games for mental health resources?

      In politics, mental health is bullshit anyway. This is one of the first things that gets shitcanned by anyone "looking to save money". The tax itself would probably be diverted immediately anyway. And none of them care one whit about mental health until they try to blame that for shootings or whatever else. Various mass or spree killings might have a mental health component, but only in the loose sense. They actually invoke Teh Crazy as a scapegoat. Most people with clinically diagnosable issues are nonviolent and never get the help they need.

      If this is a mental health issue, our entire culture needs enforced counseling.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 7:14pm

      Re:

      There is no question that the money would go elsewhere.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:51am

    Stopping everyone from exerting their agression in videogames. That would make for an interesting experiment.. in figuring out how much videogames are preventing agression in the real world at the moment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 4:54am

    Gamers are...

    ...okay, not this time. Representative Robert Nardolillo III is not only stupid but apparently does not have the grasp of the Constitution that one would expect of a college freshman. How does someone this appallingly incompetent manage to feed himself without perforating his forehead with the fork?

    Perhaps he could be featured in a video game release as a bumbling character who wanders around proposing insanely inappropriate "solutions" to the wrong problems. (He IS a public figure and thus more than fair game for parody and satire.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:34am

      Re: Gamers are...

      "Representative Robert Nardolillo III is not only stupid but apparently does not have the grasp of the Constitution that one would expect of a college freshman."

      Most people have no grasp of the Constitution. It is written in plain English but people refuse to understand it in plain English. They first tell everyone they must follow the letter of the law in court trial, and then turn around and tell everyone else that the Constitution is a living document to be reinterpreted all manor of ways.

      It like telling the court, no, I did not drop the bowling ball onto their head, I merely stop holding it up because I was getting tired.

      The fuzzy logic is intentional because "dogma"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 4:55am

    >>Except he cannot tax these games for the very same reason. Taxing speech is a thing we don't do and is flatly prohibited by the First Amendment.<<
    The NFA would like to disagree. Same logic, we can't ban it therefore we tax it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 4:55am

    Freedom tax

    There should be a fine every time a legislator introduces a knowingly unconstitutional bill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 7:26am

      Re: Freedom tax

      Now this is something I can get behind. Let's outsource the judgment call on this to first-year law students. If they can read the text of a bill and flag it instantly, then the legislator should be fined and the proceeds should go into a fund for legal representation of indigent dependents.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 7:15pm

      Re: Freedom tax

      and an additional penalty for not reading it before signing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 4:59am

    There is evidence...

    There is evidence this guy is an idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 1 Mar 2018 @ 5:00am

    Alternative to 'M' Rating

    A quick search on thesaurus.com for "Mature" gives a nice list of alternatives to the 'M' rating. I've removed all synonyms that start with the letter 'M':

    sophisticated, grown, prime, complete, fit, developed, ripe, cultured, prepared, cultivated, ready, seasoned, settled, perfected, full-blown, full-fledged, full-grown, ripened, fully grown, in full bloom, of age, in one's prime

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 1 Mar 2018 @ 6:12am

    A tax on ESRB "M" rated games.

    I think the correct response to that would be for the ESRB to replace the "M" rating with "N".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dolz (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 6:20am

    ""There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not," stated Rep. Nardolillo. “

    Citation needed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      I've been playing violent video games since I was about five. In middle and high school, I acted a lot less aggressively than the guys who spent time playing football instead of playing video games. Let's look at sports where people are trained and encouraged in aggressive behavior if we're looking for a source of aggression in children. Oh wait, voters love sports. Yeah, let's vilify the video games instead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 6:21am

    On the question of taxing or banning these games, these politicians fortunately run face-first into the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's 2011 decision that video games are art, they are speech, and the government can't infringe upon that speech.

    Grosjean v. American Press Co. would be the relevent link for the "speech taxation" part of that statement. "The decision held that states could charge customary taxes on media but higher taxes ran afoul of the First Amendment."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2018 @ 7:22pm

      Re:

      And [Brown v EMA](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Entertainment_Merchants_Ass%27n) established video games as speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 7:48am

    This is the sort of thing that calls for a system where judicial review distinguishes between two levels of "unconstitutional":
    1. The garden-variety "eh, it was a judgment call anybody could legitimately get wrong", with the same effect as the current system (the law is struck down with no other effects).
    2. The guy/gal who drafted this law, who was obviously staring at a classmate's boobs/abs during Civics 101 class, needs to have a point put on his politican license, with some threshold (three strikes and your're out?) for permanent ineligibility for political office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 8:05am

    Cut thru the BS and it's just a simple money grab. They care fark all about the children

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      Not just a money-grab, it's also a cheap and transparent PR stunt.

      "I want to look like I'm doing something without having to do any actual work... I know, I'll propose a bill! Sure it'll get curbstomped in court, assuming it goes through at all, but I'll have my soundbites about how much I 'care about the issue' by then so who cares?"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 9:31am

    Rating deflation coming up

    A voluntary rating system? I can just see it now, a game company rating its new game:

    "Well, yes, it does have a lot of violence. Blood spraying everywhere, amputated limbs, even an amputated head. But we cut out the part about the arrow through the eye sockets, so we feel the game deserves a voluntary G rating."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:17am

    Two thoughts:

    1) Why do so many politicians seem to do their job for short-term benefits? I'm sure the guy knows the law he's proposing will be shot down in court... but in the mean time, he can grandstand about how he "did something".
    AND he can make sure waste tax-payers' dollars for this law to go up the court system and be struck down.

    2) Here's a nifty way to keep adult games of out kids' hands: parents should look at the rating and not buy these games for their kids.
    But you say this is too simplistic of a solution? It seems to me that this is a better solution than saying "video games cause violence so let's ban them all".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:25am

      Re: Two thoughts:

      It's not just in politics, that behavior pervades our culture. We institutionalize and even enshrine, sometimes, things based in one sort of behavioral tendency over others. Meanwhile, we constantly congratulate ourselves on being rational and empirical.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:37am

      Re: Two thoughts:

      I find it ironic that he is a gun rights advocate but wants to basically ban video games with guns.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:21am

    ""There is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not," stated Rep. Nardolillo. "

    I would like to see said evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 10:50am

    Where is the tax on movies rated 'R'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 1:20pm

    People will just go out state and buy their video games. Rhode Island is such a small state (smallest in the Union), that any of its residents are no more than an hour's drive from the state line.

    This tax will just put the video game stores in Rhode Island at a disadvantage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Mar 2018 @ 1:50pm

    yeah, stupid is as stupid does...

    wonder how they plan to tax online purchases? what about the apple app store? what about steam? what about google app store? what about walking to the next state and getting one with just sales tax?

    all that said, good lucky with your stupid idea. if your peoples support it, they in turn are stupid. so says me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 2 Mar 2018 @ 1:00am

      Re: yeah, stupid is as stupid does...

      This is about grandstanding and trying to grab votes by jumping on a controversial issue among an important bloc of voters. Actually implementing the idea, let alone making its implementation effective, are secondary issues that won't get a second thought once the headline have blown over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 1 Mar 2018 @ 3:14pm

    It's "BESIDE the point"

    ... not "besides the point."

    Think about it.

    At this point, I'm pretty sure Tim puts that same idiotic Millennialism into every article just to fuck with me.

    I WILL NOT BACK DOWN.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 2 Mar 2018 @ 7:38am

    Thus, we're hit with another reminder of the axiom...

    The opposite of "Progress" is "Congress"...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Renee watson, 7 Apr 2018 @ 4:28pm

    Free speech

    I get that Video game want to have it both ways know , They are protected under the free speech laws . But they Bann all form of free speech on there chat forums , and people who speck there minds get banned for saying what on there minds -

    If these game places want free speech ok ... But they must allow it on there forums too , if not these video game place are hypocrites , and must allow it let people govern them selves .

    People free speech on video games are being banned , This is bad when they can go around and bully us tried to beat us into submission it seems . Im not saying all of millenails are bad but the majority of them are * i think milly rocks * But they can say what ever they want on these chats and then play the victim grr There lots of different age groups in these games too . i could go in to detail about what happened to me on a game but it getting so bad .. Common people can not even have a relaxing time on line any more . i wish i know a place where free speech and video game was a thing , this stuff is going way to far

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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