Group supports Bob Rommel, Dennis Baxley for bills on campus free speech - Florida Politics

Group supports Bob Rommel, Dennis Baxley for bills on campus free speech

Generation Opportunity is sending out campaign mailers lauding Republican state Rep. Bob Rommel of Naples and Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley of Lady Lake for their support of freedom of speech because the pair introduced bills this Session seeking to prevent college campuses from restricting free speech to “free speech zones.”

Generation Opportunity, which promotes conservative economics among young adults, is related to but independent from Americans for Prosperity, the conservative-economics group founded by Charles Koch and David Koch. The Gen-Op Florida flyers going out in Rommel’s House District 106 and Baxley’s Senate District 12 are paid for by Americans for Prosperity.

The free-speech on campus issue is one Generation Opportunity has been pushing for a long time, and the Florida measures are similar to bills recently approved in Missouri and Virginia. Rommel’s House Bill 909 and Baxley’s Senate Bill 1234 are titled the “Campus Free Expression Act” and seek to end a practice on many college and university campuses that allow students to exercise free speech only in designated areas. Both bills were filed Dec. 11. Neither has received committee assignments.

The bills seek to address policies that first began to emerge decades ago on college campuses and now are in widespread use in Florida, often requiring students who wish to express political or other views through speeches, pamphlets, signs, etc., to do so only in designated locations, typically with permits.

The bills would construe that most “outdoor areas of campus” be open to “expressive activities,” defined as “any lawful verbal or written means by which an individual may communicate ideas to others, including all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, speeches, and guest speaker; distributing literature; carrying signs; circulating petitions; and the recording and publication, including internet publication, of video or audio recorded in outdoor areas of campus of public institutions of higher education.”

“Free expression is under attack on college campuses here in Florida and across the nation,” GO-FL Coalitions Director Demetrius Minor said in a news release issued by Generation Opportunity-Florida. “We believe that free speech zones have no place in our state’s higher education institutions and the entire campus, not just a zone, should be a place where students and faculty are free to express their beliefs.

“Our mail campaign will educate Floridians about the efforts of two state legislators who are fighting to protect free speech on campus. We applaud Rep. Rommel and Sen. Baxley for championing this issue and encourage their legislative colleagues to support them,” he added.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.
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