Pennsylvania Rep Is Trying to Tax Video Games Again

Source: 'Schoolhouse Rock'
Pennsylvania Representative Christopher B. Quinn (R) is once more attempting to introduce a bill  that would add a 10% tax onto M and AO rated video games. The legislation was originally released October of last year, but faltered in committee and was quickly tabled. The Media Coalition was also fighting against the law as a clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

But Quinn is trying again, so let's take a look at what this would mean to citizens of Pennsylvania. House Bill 109 would be an amendment of the state's tax code of 1971. The tax would be imposed to all M and AO rated games on top of any state and city taxes. The tax would be collected by the retailer and remitted to the state to then be deposited into The Digital Protection for School Safety Account (which has yet to be formed). The money would be distributed to schools to help enhance safety measures; this could be anything from upgrading doors and windows in schools, adding key card readers and metal detectors, or possibly arming teachers with guns. Retailers that do not collect the 10% tax would be penalized with paying half of the original amount owed.

Quinn is continuing to cite the same research with a study from the National Center for Health Research as the reasoning for the tax. However, the study also states that while video games may be a factor in how it affects children, other factors need to be taken into account to determine why violence occurs (environment, access to weapons, etc).

There's also the matter of the tax specifically penalizing select video game categories and not all of them. If there was concern about violence in video games, every game at every level from E to AO has some form of "violence" in it - even in a cartoonish manner. M and AO games are already regulated by retailers on whom can purchase them. For all of GameStop's missteps, this is one area they have been consistently strong in. From Walmart to Target and BestBuy, retailers will say no to a sale of an M or AO game to anyone under 17/18. Valid photo ID's are required, and you can scream and yell all you want. Employees can and will be fired for selling an M game to anyone under 17. And yes, retailers can refuse a sale if they know an adult is buying an M/AO game for a child. Retailers always have the right to refuse service.

If a legal guardian buys the M or AO title for a child, that's on them. Not the retailer. Which does make the law quite unfair by placing the burden on the businesses selling the product, and not on the adult/parent/guardian whom has more direct influence on the child. What Quinn is proposing is not much different from California's law (which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court); the major differences being that the west-coast bill wanted to ban the sale of all M/AO games rather than tax them.

The chances that this law will be passed are slim to none given the history of similar bills. The highest court in the country has already ruled that such a law is unconstitutional. For now the proposal has been referred to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Finance Committee.