Thursday, June 7, 2007

Campus Press Act goes to governor

Illinois' public college newspapers would all be granted "public forum" status next January if the governor signs on or if his veto is overridden. Here's today's press release from the STUDENT PRESS LAW CENTER:

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer
© 2007 Student Press Law Center

June 7, 2007 ILLINOIS — With overwhelming support from the state legislature, an amended anti-censorship bill is on its way to the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who has 60 days to take action on the bill.

If the governor signs SB 729, known as the College Campus Press Act, then all public college and community college publications in the state would be designated as forums for student expression starting in January 2008. The law would effectively negate the 2005 Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter in that state. The Hosty decision could allow public college administrators to impose prior review and restraint on student newspapers if the publication is not a designated public forum for student expression.

It applies to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, which comprise the Seventh Circuit.

"Passage of Senate Bill 729 is a major step in restoring the free speech and free press rights of student journalists on our college campuses," said Edwin Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "We are grateful that the legislators responded so positively to this idea when we brought it to their attention."

  • Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) introduced the bill in early February with assistance from the ACLU.
  • Senators passed the bill unanimously in March.
  • The House, which approved the measure 112-2, amended the bill last week to protect administrators from being held liable for any student-produced material and allow them to punish students who use unprotected speech.
  • The Senate unanimously approved the amendment Wednesday.

Jim Ferg-Cadima, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Illinois, said last week that the ACLU looks forward to the support of the governor. However, the bill is virtually veto-proof, he said, because of the legislators' overwhelming support.