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Edwards Vetoes LA Campus Speech Bill

Calling it “a solution in search of a problem,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed a bill that would have required Pelican State colleges and universities to do more to foster the appearance of controversial speakers and opinions on campus.


The measure Edwards vetoed (HB 269) would have required colleges to adopt a position statement saying they strive for free expression on campuses and would not attempt to shield students from unwelcome or offensive speech. The bill also required schools to allow protests and demonstrations and the state’s Board of Regents to create a “committee on free expression” to issue an annual report on any controversies or barriers to free speech on campus.


The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Lance Harris (R), was modeled after a law adopted in 2016 in Arizona. Republicans have introduced similar proposals in several states in response to schools canceling speeches or other appearances by conservative speakers amid threats of violence or protest.


In his veto message, Edwards called the bill “unnecessary and overly burdensome to our colleges and universities as the freedoms this bill attempts to protect are already well-established” under both the U.S. and Louisiana constitutions.


The bill passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, but it is unlikely to be overridden. With the Legislature already adjourned for the year lawmakers would need to reconvene for a special veto override session, a move requiring agreement from two-thirds of the members of each chamber. No such session had been held in modern Pelican State history.


Harris said he plans to re-file the bill again next session. (TIMES-PICAYUNE [NEW ORLEANS], U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT)