A bill protecting viewpoints of potentially controversial rock bands and other acts had its Senate debut, and the reaction from the Commerce and Tourism committee points to an encore.
Republican Sen. Jonathan Martin’s evocatively named “Right to Rock Act” (SB 1206) holds that an “owner or operator of a public venue may not cancel a live performance of an artist, a performer, or a musical group because of the artist’s, performer’s, or musical group’s lawful exercise of freedom of speech or the artist’s, performer’s, or musical group members’ personal beliefs.”
These protections do not apply “to an owner or operator who cancels a live performance based on a reasonable belief that the performance would violate any applicable state law or rule,” Martin added in introduction.
Public venues could be “owned by or rented to a governmental entity, school, college, or university,” per the bill, if these are “funded by or constructed with public or government funds.” The bill does not apply to private venues, which can “discriminate however they want to based on speech,” Martin noted.
The sponsor believes that if “public dollars” are spent on facilities, they should respect the free expression of artists.
One Democrat greeted the measure with skepticism, with Sen. Vic Torres asking why the committee is “doing this bill.”
Martin said some “live performers” believe they were canceled because of exercising their free speech rights.
Torres was a “no” vote on the bill, which advanced despite his objection.
Martin’s bill is the Senate version of one filed in the House by Republican Rep. Joel Rudman, whose version has not been heard in any committee yet. Its first stop, should it ever be heard, would be the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee, which did not include it on its Feb. 6 agenda.