HB1329, introduced by Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, got a “do not pass” recommendation from the House Education Committee.
But when the bill came to the floor the full House overturned the committee’s recommendation and passed it on a 65-25 vote.
You can read the text of the legislation here. It’s a little complicated, but in a nutshell it directs the State Board of Higher Education to develop policies protecting free expression on campus, and it also gives students a “bill of rights” for on-campus free speech.
Rep. Denton Zubke, a Republican from Watford City who carried the bill to the floor out of committee, panned the bill as duplicative. “Free speech is already protected by the Constitution,” he said.
Rep. Mark Owens, a Republican from Grand Forks and chairman of the House Education Committee, agreed. “You already have the right to free speech, but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t fight for it,” he said. “Re-iterating it doesn’t help.”
But supporters of the legislation were quite persuasive during their floor speeches. Rep. Matt Ruby, a Republican from Minot, said he’d heard from a college student who said they could be reported and reprimanded for merely discussing the wrong sort of politics in the lunch line.
Rep. Becker himself noted the legislation didn’t receive any testimony in opposition before committee.
He said campus safe zones are places where “students are protected…from any sort of intellectual rigor.” He said there is a “mob mentality” on campuses across the country which stands in opposition to hearing things “we might disagree with.”
He also said unruly and even violent protests against some on-campus events, such as the riot inspired by the Milo Yiannopoulos event at the University of Berkeley, drive up security costs. “We have free speech on campus as long as you’re wealthy enough to pay for security,” he said.
“I guarantee there is a certain chilling effect going on on our campuses,” Rep. Mary Johnson, a Fargo Republican, told the House floor.
Here’s the video. The roll call for the vote is visible at the end of the video. Most of the opposition was from Democrats, with some Republicans crossing over.