The Oregon House of Representatives passed its student free press bill, House Bill 3279, by a 39-16 vote on Tuesday. The bill would guarantee the same rights to high school journalists that House Bill 1307 would have in Washington, although there are some differences:
As amended by the House Judiciary Committee, the bill dropped a provision freeing school districts and boards of legal liability for the content of school-sponsored media.
Although it would allow civil lawsuits to enforce state and federal constitutional rights of free expression, the amended bill would limit damages to $100.
Unlike Washington, there were supporters of the bill from both parties; there also were legislators who are former administrators who spoke in favor of the bill.
Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton, said the bill leaves the burden on the students.
"It is going through experience that they learn," said Jenson, a retired instructor at Blue Mountain Community College. "If everything is sugar-coated, there's not any real education there."
If you're interested in listening to the floor debate -- including bill sponsor Rep. Larry Galizio's impassioned speech -- you can find that here. It's about one hour and 45 minutes into the session.
The hope here is that if Oregon can get this bill turned into law, it might provide a compelling example for our own legislators when free press legislation is introduced again next legislative session.
The bill now heads to Oregon's Senate.