Tuesday, March 13, 2007

House passes free press bill

The state House of Representatives has just voted bill 1307, which guarantees a free press to high school and college students.

Here's a link.

It was inspirational to sit and watch government in action (after midnight no less!) as members of the Washington House of Representatives debated and then voted to guarantee the rights of free speech and free press to high school and college student journalists.

The opposition raised the threat of litigation and of students being minors and even that legislators themselves don't have free speech rights in their state-sponsored media (although they have absolute privilege for comments on the House floor). The opposition also predicted doom and gloom -- schools across the state would shut down student media before taking the risk to have students actually have the final content decision. My own representative, a former school board member, spoke on the floor of how disappointed he would be to see The Apple Leaf, the newspaper I advise, shut down because it is such a strong student paper. Then he voted no on the bill.

But 58 representatives made the right choice. And those 58 have sent a strong message to their counterparts in the Senate that students in Washington deserve to have the same rights as students in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts.

So in Washington, we will celebrate March 13 as a day where we cleared a huge hurdle. But the work is far from over. We will lobby the state Senate, and we will look to our friends in other states and with national organizations to keep the pressure on. We are so close to making this bill a law. March 30 is the cutoff date for committees to deal with legislation from the other chamber.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Legislature in action

It's just after midnight, and the state's House of Representatives is debating ESHB 1307, a bill which would guarantee free speech and press rights for high school and college students. The deadline for passage of bills from committee is Wednesday.

Listening to the debat, particularly from those opposed, has been enlightening. Most of the opposing arguments have dealt mainly with the doom-and-gloom scenarios of lawsuits and threats of canceling newspapers. They just don't ring true. Threats aren't logical debate.

It's been an interesting debate.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.