Missouri New Voices bill moves on to the Senate

MISSOURI—Missouri’s Walter Cronkite New Voices Act has successfully passed through the House of Representatives and is halfway home.

House Bill 441, which seeks to protect Missouri student journalists from institutional censorship, passed nearly unanimously after a tense series of amendments to the bill’s language.

Rep. Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton) proposed an amendment that would have exempted “violations of school policy” on the part of student journalists, which would in effect give administrators a way around the bill’s intent. But supporters were able to shake loose the amendment before the House voted.

“They can draft a policy which runs counter to the spirit of the bill, so that amendment was added in committee but on the House floor prior to the perfection process, our representative (bill sponsor Kevin Corlew) put in an amendment to remove that line,” New Voices proponent and college journalism educator Bob Bergland said.

The New Voices bill will continue on to the Senate, where it stalled out last year. Bergland said he was confident the bill will make it through safely because it’s a stronger bill for both students and administrators from the last session.

“We feel good about the bill and its chances, we also feel good because of the overwhelming vote in the House, we hope that sends a message to the Senate that this is a bill without a great deal of controversy and that this is a bill both sides of the aisle can agree on.”

In the Senate, the bill is being handled by Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, a Senate newcomer who previously served in the House.

SPLC staff writer James Hoyt can be reached by email or (202) 478-1926.

Want more stories like this? The Student Press Law Center is a legal and educational nonprofit defending the rights of student journalists. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter to receive a notification on Fridays about the week’s new articles.

Fill out my online form.