Veto of bill banning 'free-speech zones' likely to stand

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Bob Kellogg (

college campus night sceneA group dedicated to protecting the rights of students and faculty on America's university campuses isn't optimistic that lawmakers in Montana will override their governor's veto of a bill that would prohibit "quarantining" of student expression to small, designated areas on campuses.

Lawmakers have until Friday to vote on whether to override Governor Steve Bullock's veto of a bill that does away with "free-speech zones" on the state's college campuses. Last month, HB 735 earned and received bipartisan support in both legislative chambers in Helena.

But the governor stated that the measure "appears to be driven by recent headlines accusing public universities of free speech restrictions" imposed on speakers who visit those campuses – and that he has been assured by the leaders of universities in the state that existing campus policies are "entirely consistent" with constitutional values of free speech and free assembly.

Taking into account the governor's statements, Joe Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) isn't optimistic that an override is possible. "I would be surprised if a veto override was successful – but it's a surprise I'd love to see," he tells OneNewsNow.


Legislators are trying to override eight vetoes Bullock issued this past session – and Cohn argues this particular veto will have little political impact on Bullock since he is term-limited and will be leaving office soon.

Despite the strong support for HB 735 from both Democrats and Republicans, the FIRE spokesman says it was pressure from the educational institutions that factored into the governor's veto.

"[Those] institutions are rarely in support of campus free-speech bills because they want the legislature to keep their hands off," he explains. "So, this is not inconsistent with what we've seen across the country."

The soon-to-be ex-governor is among the two dozen individuals who are seeking the Democratic nomination for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.


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