California governor signs college student press freedom bill

Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law Aug. 28 that explicitly prohibitsprior restraint and other forms of censorship of the college press.

Thebill’s sponsor, assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, noted in a pressrelease the legislation makes California the first state in the nation tospecifically prohibit censorship of college student newspapers.

The billpassed the state Senate by a 31-2 vote on August 10 and was unanimously approvedby the California Assembly in May.

The free-press bill was drafted inresponse to the Hosty v. Carter decision out of the 7th U.S. CircuitCourt of Appeals, said Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California NewspaperPublishers Association, a supporter of the bill.

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SPLC View: As they have before, California lawmakers once againtake the lead in making sure student journalists in their state retainsignificant free speech protections no matter the First Amendment climateelsewhere. This law was passed as a direct response to the 2005 Hostydecision, which raised serious questions about the First Amendment protectionsprovided some college student journalists in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin,the three states covered by the 7th Circuit’s decision. Within days of thatdecision, an attorney for the California State University system issued a memoto CSU officials telling them that, because of Hosty, they might havemore authority to control the content of their student media. This law ensuresthat won’t happen and reaffirms California’s commitment to free speech on thestate’s public college and university campuses. Moreover, as Californialawmakers did almost 30 years ago when they enacted the first state lawprotecting the speech of high school student journalists, this legislation willprovide a model for other states to follow. Californians should be proud.