Failed Illinois Games Legislation Costs Taxpayers $1M

By Nick Breckon, May 25, 2007 11:20am PDT A report filed by the Quad-Cities Online today revealed that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D) spent $1 million on his 2005 failed effort to ban the sale or rental of some violent video games to minors.

Gamers following the news at the time may remember the beginning and the end of the ill-fated bill, which would have limited the rental or sale of some violent or sexually explicit games to minors, while carrying a penalty of up to $1,000 for offending retailers. The legislation was struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly, who found the bill unconstitutional when it failed to present a clear link between violence in games and aggressive behavior.

"In most people's minds, the legislation was unconstitutional and it was clear it wasn't going anywhere," said Charles Wheeler III, a journalism professor at the University of Illinois.

Now an Illinois House of Representatives committee has discovered that the amount spent in support of the legislation totaled some $1 million in taxpayer money. Gov. Blagojevich's staff testified before the committee, revealing that various state agencies were billed to pay for the effort. "We had a strong suspicion that the governor was using funds appropriated by the General Assembly as his own personal piggy bank," said state representative Jack Franks (D).

Some state lawmakers who voted for the bill have defended their position by claiming they were forced to do so for political reasons. State senator Mike Jacobs (D) labeled the bill as "important," but said he would not have voted for it had he known the cost. Gov. Blagojevich has not yet responded to the story.

"It's unfortunate that the state of Illinois spent taxpayer money defending this statute. This is precisely what we told them would happen," said David Vite of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

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