Florida Outlaws Free Speech Zones in Higher Education Bill

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A Florida bill that would outlaw free speech zones on the state’s college campuses recently cleared the House of Representatives and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. 

First gun control and now freedom of speech, what’s NEXT?

The bill, which has garnered the support of multiple First Amendment non-profits, also includes a “Cause of Action” mandate, which would allow people to sue institutions if they feel their “expressive rights are violated.”

Visitors, Florida Senators and their staff members look at the new Florida Senate chamber in Tallahassee, Fla.

Florida’s House of Representatives passed a massive higher education bill which eliminates so-called “free speech zones,” pending Governor Rick Scott’s signature.

The bill, which effectively eliminates so-called “free speech zones” on public college and university campuses in the state, incorporates many elements of the “Campus Free Expression Act,” which was sponsored by Republican State Senator Dennis Baxley.

That bill was originally voted down by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but was then revived by the Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee, which voted to incorporate large portions of Baxley’s bill into Senate Bill 4, the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018.”


In addition to eliminating free speech zones from Florida public institutions of higher education, the bill also creates a “Cause of Action,” which would allow people to sue an institution of higher education if they feel their “expressive rights are violated.”

However, the “Cause of Action” was somewhat controversial, as the Florida ACLU opposed the bill for that specific portion, though the organization did agree that free speech zones should be outlawed on college campuses.

“The ACLU of Florida absolutely supports eliminating free speech zones on campus, and we testified to that effect,” said ACLU Media Relations Coordinator Gaby Guadalupe.

Joe Cohn, legislative policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told Campus Reform that the elimination of free speech zones will benefit students.

“Students shouldn’t have their free speech rights quarantined into misleadingly labeled free speech zones and unfortunately public institutions in Florida are doing just that,” he said.


Burnett also observed that the “Cause of Action” would allow students to sue the public institution in a state court if their First Amendment rights are violated, noting that this would be cheaper to litigate as opposed to a federal court.

“The Florida affiliate (of the ACLU) is somewhat of an outlier here in the position that they are taking, and in this particular instance, we think they’re wrong and we look forward to working with them on issues of common ground in the future,” he said, claiming that the Florida ACLU deviates in this respect from the other ACLU chapters across the country.

In a statement to Campus Reform, Generation Opportunity (GO-FL), a nonpartisan organization committed to more freedom and a bright future for all young Americans, said that the ending of free speech zones will help students confront challenging ideas.


“Attempting to limit the First Amendment rights of students by tucking them into the hidden corners of campus is not only unconstitutional but goes against the very concept of what a college education should be about,” said GO-FL’s Coalitions Director Demetrius Minor. “College is a place where young people go to learn new ideas and challenge concepts on their merits, but that dialogue will never occur if free expression is not openly permitted on campus.”

On the outside, many in Florida might think you would look like a fool if you voted against this, but IF they ONLY read the ENTIRE bill, politicians and their constituents might think differently.

Senate Bill 4, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, sponsored by Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), today saw final passage in both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives. The legislation will now be sent to Florida Governor Rick Scott.

“Senate Bill 4 is essential to securing the permanent expansion of Bright Futures for the nearly 100,000 students who have earned this scholarship, and I am grateful to Speaker Corcoran and our colleagues in the House for passing this critical legislation today,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart).

“Last year we passed historic increases in both need-based and merit-based student financial aid. While the increases in need-based aid are already built into our budget, the passage of Senate Bill 4 is necessary to maintain the increase in Bright Futures funding for our Academic Scholars. Senate Bill 4 also restores the Medallion Scholarship to 75 percent of tuition and fees. By passing this legislation today, the Legislature is telling Florida students and families that they can count on the Bright Futures Scholarship as they plan their investment in an education at one of our excellent colleges or universities.”

That part sounds nice, warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?


So you might say what fool would turn those funds down?….the same fool that votes FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

Why does it seem that politicians can’t just separate the issues: funding in one bill and free speech in another? Nope.

They are counting on politicans to NOT read the ENTIRE bill.

Now, it’s up to Governor Scott? Does Scott REALLY want to go down this trail too? Wasn’t gun control enough of a disaster? Does Scott really want to take on Freedom of Speech or the 1st Amendment too?

How stupid can one be?


Resource: Campus Reform, Florida Senate

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