At least 24 states have now either introduced or passed legislation defending freedom of speech on public college campuses.
A total of eight states – Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona – have already passed bills into law that designed to protect free expression in higher education, with lawmakers from 16 other states campaigning to pass similar legislation.
Florida was the latest to pass such a measure, with Gov. Rick Scott signing a bill banning “free speech zones” on campuses last week. The legislation also included a “Cause of Action” mandate, allowing individuals to sue universities for violating their “expressive rights.”
Kentucky is the next state that could join the list, as the State Senate recently voted to pass a bill designed to protect the free speech of students and faculty alike.
“The problem with this free speech area is it’s not even close to a lot of activity on campus,” said Republican State Sen. Will Schroder, sponsor of the bill, according to WEKU. “It really restricts individuals to a certain location.”
Not all of the free speech bills, however, have found the necessary support to successfully navigate the legislative process.
According to the Kansas News Service, the Kansas freedom of expression measure fell just one vote short of passing the State Senate on Thursday, ultimately falling with a 20-20 vote.
“It is our intent – those of us who are voting for this bill – to protect the speech of all students, no matter their race, their color, their creed, their gender identity or their sexual orientation,” Senate President Susan Wagle commented.
The top Democrat and the Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, however, vocally opposed the legislation, arguing that he “cannot support a bill that softens punishment for hateful harassment.”