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Democratic governor vetoes campus pro-free speech bill, calls it 'overly burdensome

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed a bill bolstering free speech on college campuses Monday. "This bill is unnecessary and overly burdensome to our colleges and universities as the freedoms this bill attempts to protect are already well-established by the bedrock principles declared in the First Amendment," Edwards said. (Getty Images)

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards — a Democrat — vetoed a bill bolstering free speech on college campuses Monday despite the growing number of assaults upon the First Amendment at universities around the country.

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem that creates a long, detailed structure for the evaluation of the freedom of expression on college campuses,” Edwards said in his veto statement. “However, this bill is unnecessary and overly burdensome to our colleges and universities as the freedoms this bill attempts to protect are already well-established by the bedrock principles declared in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution" and in the Louisiana Constitution.

House Bill 269 called for public colleges in Louisiana to adopt safeguards for free expression that might be viewed as obvious given common understandings of the First Amendment — but nevertheless have seemed to be thwarted or disallowed on some campuses to an increasing degree.

Language in the bill notes that colleges should "ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression" since their "primary function" is the "discovery, improvement, transmission, and dissemination of knowledge ..."

The bill also reminds schools that free speech includes "unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive" speech. It adds that students and faculty can discuss "any topic that presents itself" and they also can meet to engage in "spontaneous expressive activity."

Also, the vetoed legislation prohibits political expression that disrupts campus activity and "the free expression of others."

Republican state Rep. Lance Harris, who introduced the bill, said he'd continue to try getting the legislation passed.

"Freedom of speech is under siege on college campuses around the country,” Harris told The Associated Press. “I'm going to be looking at different versions. I hope I can visit with the governor and see what he didn't like about this one.”

(H/T: Campus Reform)

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