Texas House Passes Bill to Protect Campus Free Speech
The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill to protect free speech at all higher education institutes within the state.
The House Bill 2100, introduced by state representative Briscoe Cain earlier this month, passed by a vote of 82-56 on Monday. The bill will now advance to the Texas Senate, whose committee will hear the bill before it can be signed by Governor Greg Abbott, The Daily Texan reported.
The bill passed through the House after undergoing several amendments suggested by fellow representatives which included scrapping a university’s sovereign immunity which requires a plaintiff to seek permission from the legislature to move ahead with lawsuit, and leaving the decision on deciding whether an invited speaker is part of a hate group or not up to a university’s discretion.
“If (a university is) attacking the student body’s ability to exercise their freedom of speech and they’re in violation of the law, they should be held accountable,” Rep. Terry Canale said during the debate. “Under current law, a university would assert sovereign immunity, and you would not be able to enforce a jury verdict or even get to a jury.”
The governors of Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa have signed similar bills into laws in their respective states in the past.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation commended the Texas House of Representatives for passing the bill, which will provide legal recourse to anyone whose speech rights have been violated.
“In looking at alternative modes of addressing the campus free speech crisis, the House rightly chose to institute the most robust protections of the First Amendment rights of Texas public university students, faculty, and staff,” Thomas Lindsay, the foundation’s director of the Center for Innovation in Education, said.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to enforce free speech on college campuses across the country. The order allows 12 federal agencies to withhold federal research or education grants, excluding federal student aid funding, from colleges that practice censorship.