New Voices legislation dies in committee in New York and Minnesota, stalls in New Jersey





As 2017-18 legislative sessions come to an end, New Voices legislation has died in two states and remained in committee in one. 

New Voices is a student-powered bipartisan movement to give student journalists protection from censorship. Fourteen states have passed New Voices legislation. The most recent, Washington, signed it into law on March 21, 2018.


The last three states with pending New Voices legislation for this session, New York, Minnesota and New Jersey, all failed to move the bills out of committee. New Jersey has a two year legislative session, so the bill could still move out of committee in the next year. The 2017-18 legislative session began with bills in eight states, but faltered in Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota, along with the states mentioned above.

New York 

In New York, New Voices bills were introduced for the first time in both houses, but didn't advance to a hearing or vote in either. A9801 stalled out in the Assembly Education Committee, while S7721 died in the Senate Education Committee.

“It was really just a matter, I think, of running out of time, and other priorities,” said Mike Simons, the yearbook adviser at Corning-Painted Post High School and a major advocate for the bill.

Both versions of the bill were amended to clarify the  protection for student media advisers. The amended bills were then reintroduced to their committees, but failed to move forward. The amended versions of the bill will be brought back to both houses in the next session, Simons said.

New York Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, a sponsor of the bill, tweeted saying she plans to reintroduce the bill in the next session. 



Simons said that while he was disappointed, he had “nothing to gripe about” and was grateful for the support the bill received. Simons said he and the bill sponsors will be working to get “more eyes drawn to it in the fall.”

Lauren Thomas, one of the editors-in-chief of the yearbook at Corning-Painted Post High School, helped advocate for the bill by meeting with legislators. Thomas said she was hopeful that the bill would eventually pass, adding that “being able to have freedom as a student journalist is huge.”

“To me, it’s just giving student journalists the rights we should have as American citizens,” Thomas said. “It’s giving them the same rights as every other journalist.”

Minnesota

In Minnesota, New Voices bill HR 1501,a holdover from the last session, was introduced in the House Education Innovation Policy committee, but never heard. 

Lori Keekley, a journalism teacher at St. Louis Park High School and advocate for the bill, said the bill will be reintroduced in the fall. Keekley said part of the problem during this session was the head of the committee did not support the bill, making it difficult to get it on the agenda. 

Minnesota high school and college student journalists led a student lobbying day where they met with legislators and distributed information about the New Voices bill, as well as a postcard campaign, thanking supportive legislators and asking for support from others.

“We still are very hopeful that this is going to move forward and I don’t think we will go away until it does,” Keekley said. 

Keekley said she has been in talks with the bill’s sponsor about strategies for the fall, including another student lobbying day and postcard campaign. 

New Jersey

In New Jersey, there were two versions of the New Voices bill, one in the state Assembly, the other in the Senate. Neither version of the bill was heard by the education committees. 

Tom McHale, a journalism and English teacher at Hunterdon Central Regional High School, said this is the third time that the bill has been in committee, but not been heard. 

McHale said he has not heard any opposition to the bill and is unsure why it hadn’t been heard in the Assembly Education Committee yet. It will be return to the committee after the legislature returns from their break. The New Jersey legislative session does not end until 2019. 

McHale said he hopes they can “learn from what we’ve done before.”

“We’re trying to get geared up and ready for the fall after the legislature comes back from break,” McHale said.

*Correction: A previous version of this story states that the New Voices bill in New Jersey had died. The legislative session in New Jersey does not end until 2019 and the bill has not died.

SPLC reporter Monica Kast can be reached by email or at 202-974-6318. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.

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Students from Corning-Painted Post High School in New York meet with members of the New York Assembly about New Voices legislation in April. From left to right: Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, students Meena Thirumuriti and Lauren Thomas, Mike Simons and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.


Courtesy of Mike Simons