Bill Protecting First Amendment Rights On Arizona College Campuses Wins Bipartisan Support

May 17, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Legislation to increase Americans’ First Amendment rights at Arizona colleges and universities appears to be obtaining more bipartisan appeal as it moves towards the Governor’s Office.

On Monday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed SB 1013, which deals with free speech zones on state universities and colleges. The proposal, sponsored by Senator John Kavanaugh, “allows a person to engage in expressive activity in any area on a public university or community college campus where they are lawfully present, and modifies the state aid amounts from a community college district that exceeds its expenditure limitation in FY’s 2024 and 2025.” SB 1013 passed 57-1 (with one Democrat not voting and one seat vacant).

Kavanaugh’s bill first passed the Arizona Senate on February 28 with a 16-14 vote along party lines – after clearing the Education Committee with a 5-2 tally. When the legislation was transmitted to the House, it was assigned to the Education Committee as well, where it received a unanimous 8-0 approval (with two Democrats voting ‘present’).

The bill was amended twice – once in the Senate and another time in the House. The first amendment came from Senator Kavanaugh, specifying “that the authorization for a person to engage in expressive activity on a public university or community college campus in any area where the person is lawfully present does not prohibit a university or community college from regulating economic activity on the campus.” The House amendment, sponsored by Representative David Livingston, set “penalties for a community college district that exceeds its expenditure limitation;” and also limited “the maximum penalty that can be withheld from a provisional community college district established before December 31, 2015, located in a county with a population less than 300,000, which exceeds its expenditure limitation.”

Days after his bill passed the Arizona Senate, Kavanaugh recorded a video to explain his reasoning for introducing the legislation, saying, “If you’re on a college campus, and you have a legal right to be where you’re at – and you’re not blocking people and you’re not disrupting anything, then you can do and say whatever you want that’s legal. We’re going to restore the First Amendment to our universities. It’s long overdue.”

Since the House amended the Senate’s version of SB 1013, the Senate will have to concur with the changes in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the bill was sent back to the Senate to await further action.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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