By Shawn Healy
On the heels of a disappointing defeat of legislation to strengthen student press rights at the high school and college level in Washington State, Oregon passed a student free expression bill of its own
(HB-3279) late last evening. The final tally in the House was 39 yes, 16 no, 4 absent, and 1 excused. In an evenly split legislature, 31-29 Democrat to Republican, this development is a sign that Oregon was able to overcome the partisanship that has stymied such efforts elsewhere (not a single Republican supported the Washington bill). Also, school board and administrator organizations chose to support the legislation in Oregon as opposed to their substantial opposition in Washington (the efforts of paid lobbyists here were too extensive for the Washington chapter of the JEA
The Oregon bill now heads to the State Senate with a 7-seat Democratic advantage (18-11). Insiders say it has a strong chance of passing, placing Oregon alongside 6 other states with strong student press rights (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Massachusetts). Check out the J-Ideas web site
for more extensive coverage and analysis.
As for for Washington, Representative Dave Upthegrove has promised to reintroduce the same legislation in 2008, Michigan is currently considering similar legislation (stuck in Senate committee), and Indiana, Vermont, and North Carolina are considering legislative initiatives of their own.