Free speech bill sees some movement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., may see progress in a bill in which he has a special interest.The Freedom of Speech and Association Act, H.R. 980, would give university students additional protections for their free speech rights. The bill would deny “Higher Education Act” funds, except student assistance, to public and private schools that punish students for engaging in expression that would be protected by the First Amendment if it occurred off campus.The bill has been sitting in a House subcommittee since it was introduced in early 1997. According to Livingston spokesman Mark Corallo, though, there is now movement.”We are moving in a positive direction,” he said.However, Corallo said that he does not know when there would be a hearing. It could be by September, he said.This is an important issue in which Livingston takes a special interest, according to Corallo.”The Constitution, freedom and liberty are at stake here,” he said.First Amendment organizations and students need to help push the bill through committee, Corallo said. They need to lobby the House members for them to see that it is an important issue for their groups.