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Louisiana House panel approves campus free speech bill based on Goldwater model

The Louisiana House Education Committee today approved a bill to restore free speech at public universities, based on the Goldwater Institute's model legislation. The Advocate reports:

A bill aimed at ensuring free speech on Louisiana campuses, and penalizing students who disrupt it, won approval Tuesday in the House Education Committee.

"Freedom of speech is dying on some college campuses in America today," said Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria and sponsor of the bill.

"If you don't believe me, pick up the paper and look," said Harris, who is chairman of the state House Republican Caucus.

The legislation, House Bill 269, would direct colleges and university management boards to spell out policies that Harris said will prevent students, outside speakers or others from being shouted down because of unpopular views.

Those policies would have to make clear that "it is not the proper role of an institution to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution ... including without limitation ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive," according to the bill.

"Protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in or listen to expressive activity shall not be permitted and shall be subject to sanction," the bill says.

Violators would face up to a one-year suspension or expulsion for multiple violations.

The bill stems in part from incidents at some colleges nationally where controversial speakers were shouted down, roughed up during hasty exits from the stage or canceled appearances because of the threat of disruptions.

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