Rep. Joe Atkins readily grants that a bill to ban ticket-hoarding software is not in the same league as, say, health care or tax reform. But it mattered to the Gearhart sisters of Oakdale, and that was good enough for him.
Good enough, too, it would seem, for most of his colleagues in the Legislature. This week they overwhelmingly approved the bill making it a gross misdemeanor to use, own or sell computer programs that enable vendors to grab up blocks of tickets before much of the public can. Tickets purchased that way are commonly resold on ticket exchange sites at exorbitant prices.
It's called the "Hannah Montana bill," named for the tween-age pop TV icon played by Miley Cyrus whose hot concert tickets last summer were instantly snapped up and resold for hundreds of dollars over face value, angering parents and crushing youthful fans unable to pay the freight.
The bill passed on Monday in the House on a 119-12 vote, and was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Brian McClung, spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the governor hadn't yet reviewed the bill.
Minnesota is the first state to approve such legislation, although a handful of others are said to have their own versions in the hopper and Tennessee "is on our heels," said Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights.
Atkins said he was inspired to introduce the bill after watching a story on KARE-TV last fall on the frustration of parents like Terri Gearhart, an Oakdale mother unable to buy tickets online through Ticketmaster for daughters Gabby and Gracie, and unwilling to buy them for hundreds elsewhere.
Atkins said last month that the bill would outlaw software made by RMG Technologies of Pittsburgh, a company that is being sued by Ticketmaster for creating and selling automated programs that allegedly can buy multiple tickets instantly.
That's ridiculous, C.J. Garibay, RMG's president, said Wednesday.
The Minnesota bill "puts a stop to software that doesn't exist," he said. The software that his company sells, he said, simply enables human typists to capture online ticket sales more efficiently.
But Atkins and Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who handled the bill in the Senate, said that the bill addressed a basic question of fairness.
"We wouldn't allow [cutting in line] on the school bus or in the playground line, and we shouldn't allow it for selling tickets," Atkins said.
Terri Gearhart said her girls cried when she had to tell them that they couldn't afford to buy tickets for the show. But there was a happy ending to the story, she said: They were able to get tickets released at the last minute by Target Center.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455