'Shouldn't have to do it': Texas Gov. records himself signing campus free speech bill (VIDEO)
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a campus free speech bill Sunday night.
- The governor recorded himself signing the bill, saying that he "shouldn't have to do it."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a free speech bill Sunday that eliminates free speech zones, among other new policies, aimed at creating more freedom of expression on campuses.
Senate Bill 18, sponsored by Rep. Briscoe Cain and other legislators was passed in the State House and Senate with some Democrat support.
In a Twitter video, the governor said that “some colleges are banning free speech on college campuses, well no more, because I’m about to sign a law that protects free speech on college campuses in Texas.”
Abbot commented on the bill, saying that he “shouldn’t have to do it, First Amendment guarantees it, now its law in Texas.”
Among other major changes, the bill forces schools to only use content-neutral standards when deciding to approve a speaker requested by a student organization and makes it unlawful to deny a student organization registered status due to political, religious, and ideological viewpoints.
The bill could force many Texas public institutions to make changes to their free speech policies, as only one public college or university in Texas has a “green light” distinction by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education, which measures how each school’s policy lines up with the First Amendment.
According to the Texas Tribune, the colleges and universities now have until August 1, 2020, to institute these changes.
The new law comes a short time after the Texas State University student government attempted to remove Turning Point USA from campus, which drew criticism from Gov. Greg Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
“The Texas Senate just passed a bill mandating free speech on college campuses (including conservative speech). I look forward to signing it into law. But it’s crazy we have to pass a law to uphold the First Amendment,” tweeted Gov. Abbott in response to the incident.
Around a month ago, a “smoke bomb” disrupted a pro-life speaker at UT-Austin, which was hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas. The university did condemn the incident, and said that “all members of the university community and their guests must be able to express their views without interference.”
Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said that while there were some aspects which could have been improved, the legislation addresses censorship on college campuses.
“It prohibits schools from using free speech zones according to speech. And, and that's important. And it also deals with speakers fees, and security fees, requiring that they only be assessed on content and viewpoint neutral basis,” Cohn said. “So those two steps, in particular, are going to be helpful in reducing censorship on campus.”
One aspect of the bill that Cohn wishes could have been different is the enforcement mechanism.
“it doesn't provide any mechanism for students to enforce their rights if schools don't comply,” he said. “Schools are already required to do many of these things with the First Amendment, and they're currently ignoring jurisprudence.”
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