Illinois House approves amended college press freedom bill

ILLINOIS — Student journalists at the state’s public universities and community colleges are another step closer to a guarantee that their newspapers are not subject to prior review or restraint.

State representatives voted late Thursday evening to pass SB0729, known as the College Campus Press Act, which proposes a law that would effectively void the result of the 2005 Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter in that state.

The 2005 Hosty v. Carter decision, which applies in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, allows public college administrators to impose prior review and restraint on student newspapers if the publication is not a designated public forum for student expression. The Illinois bill designates all public college and community college publications in the state as public forums for student expression.

The bill now returns to the senate, where it could be voted on as early as today. If senators grant a motion of concurrence, the bill will go to Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Jim Ferg-Cadima, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Illinois, said the ACLU looks forward to the support of the governor. However, the bill is virtually veto-proof, he said, because of the legislators’ overwhelming support. The house voted 112-2 to pass the bill, and the senate previously passed it unanimously.

“The ACLU of Illinois believes this is a step in the right direction,” Ferg-Cadima said. “It welcomes the overwhelming bi-partisan support.”

If senate support for the bill remains as strong as expected, the resulting law could go into effect as early as January, he said.

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer

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