A bill touted as a way to prevent and penalize disruptions of controversial campus speakers cleared the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
The House-passed measure, House Bill 269, is sponsored by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria and chairman of the House Republican caucus.
Harris said upheaval at the University of California at Berkeley and other campuses, especially when conservative speakers were shouted down by critics, points up the need for a law in Louisiana.
A bill aimed at ensuring free speech on Louisiana campuses, and penalizing students who disr…
"This is something we need to protect free expression on campuses," he told the committee, which approved the bill without objection.
On a second go-around the Louisiana House late Wednesday approved legislation to ensure the …
The legislation next faces action in the full Senate.
The measure mirrors model legislation that has been pushed in other states.
"I bring this bill because of things happening across the country," Harris said. "This is something other states have addressed or are addressing as we speak."
The legislation underwent several changes, including some advocated by Jason Droddy, interim vice president for strategic communications at LSU.
The bill approved by the House said students found responsible twice for infringing on speech rights could be suspended for a year or expelled.
That language was taken out, as well as other changes that give colleges and universities authority over disciplining students.
The bill would require management boards for LSU, Southern and other schools to spell out policies aimed at protecting campus speech, "including without limitation ideas and opinions they (students) find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive."
Schools would be required to outline free speech rights during freshmen orientation. Harris also wants the state Board of Regents to set up a 15-member panel that would report on disruptions to free speech at colleges, how schools are handling any controversy and any changes needed.
Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, a member of the committee, praised the bill.
"I appreciate you making this stand," Milkovich told Harris. "If you can't express your views at colleges that is troubling."