HB 298: Free Speech Trumps Government Interests

This Bill passed the House 75-0, but did not reach a vote in the Senate.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

Last year, residents in Provo were circulating a petition in order to stop an expensive transportation project from moving forward. Multiple incidents were reported by volunteer signature gatherers at various government buildings that government employees and police officers were hampering their efforts by making erroneous claims about what could be done on public property. These incidents of harassment were direct violations of these citizens rights to free speech.

See our video report here.

Representative Norm Thurston is running House Bill 298 to address this problem. Just because a local government disagrees with you, doesn’t give it the power to impede your rights. Rep. Thurston’s bill makes this abundantly clear and reinforces the constitutional rights of any U.S. citizen.

The courts have left little room for interpretation on First Amendment rights—and this particular issue is no exception. A valid time, place, and manner regulation must be “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech,” must be “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest,” and must “leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information” Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984).

In the Provo example above, the city imposed time and place restrictions per a building policy; however, when such an important and fundamental liberty is involved, particularly when the speech was political and pertained to city action, the limits on speech should have resulted from the far more deliberative process of city ordinance and have been far more tailored. This bill helps strike that balance.