In unanimous vote, New Voices bill passes Arizona Senate, advances to House

ARIZONA — New Voices legislation in Arizona is one step closer to becoming law after moving unanimously Monday through the state Senate.

All 30 senators voted in favor of Senate Bill 1384, which grants student journalists at both the college and high-school levels the ability to exercise freedom of the press regardless of whether the publication is sponsored by a school, uses school facilities, or is part of a class.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, introduced the bill in January. She said that while bipartisan support for legislation in Arizona is common because of the way bills make their way through the legislative process, the unanimous vote for the New Voices legislation was special.

Yee initially testified in front of the Arizona Education Committee in 1992 supporting similar legislation that would have freed students from prior review and administrative censorship, but it did not end up becoming law.

“This is a unique bill because it has not [previously] gone as far as the full process,” she said. “To see the 30-0 unanimous bipartisan vote yesterday was a testimony to the fact we’ve moved forward in the last 25 years and seeing that support was moving to me personally.”

Slightly different from other New Voices legislation, the Arizona draft of the bill includes a provision that each school district governing board and charter school governing board in the state should draft written content guidelines for school-sponsored media. The guidelines, however, cannot be restrictive beyond content that is libelous, invades personal privacy, or “materially and substantially” disrupts school operations.

Yee previously told the SPLC that a locally enacted policy is necessary because locally elected governing boards in Arizona determines how individual schools in each district are run.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where leaders will review the bill and determine its committee assignment, Yee said. She said there is not a definite timeline for when representatives could vote on the bill, but said she was hopeful for a similar outcome.

“I was impressed with our organization of advocacy when bill was in the Senate, and we’ll plan for a similar arrangement [in the House] to ensure that student voices are heard,” she said. “All of those individuals who have been invested in the bill will continue to follow the bill [through the process].”

SPLC staff writer Conner Mitchell can be reached by email or (202) 974-6318

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