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Republican lawmaker wants to amend Michigan Constitution to allow bills about Free Speech

Republican lawmaker wants to amend Michigan Constitution to allow bills about Free Speech. (Sinclair Broadcast Group/Jared Penland)

Republican lawmakers in Michigan say some colleges are silencing students who are trying to express their political views.

Republicans point to instances at Kellogg Community College, Albion College, Grand Valley State University, and others.

Political Reporter Nick Minock reported that new resolution would give the legislature the authority to govern free speech on college campuses. The resolution passed committee and could be on the ballot if it passes one final hurdle.

Silencing students on college campuses is becoming a problem, according to Republican State Rep. Jim Runestad.

Runestad said, ”The one we heard today was there was three students who were passing pocket Constitutions and [the college] said they were in the wrong spot, and they arrested them, put handcuffs on them, put them in jail. And that was just settled recently. The university had to pay all the legal fees of the students and change their policies."

Runestad wants to amend the Michigan Constitution to allow the legislature to make laws to protect Free Speech at Michigan public institutions.

Runestad argues colleges follow aren't following the Constitution by not providing for protection of Free Speech and by discriminating on the basis of political viewpoints.

Runestad said, “Often times they will say yes you can speak in that corn field about a mile. It's still public property for the university. You can speak there, but no, where the students are, you can't speak. So, stuff like that they are really restricting rights of citizens and students."

But two Democrats say that's not the whole story.

Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-Macomb County said, "The Supreme Court has already ruled that they have the ability to regulate time and place. These institutions have a responsibility to make sure that the students on campuses are safe, so I think they are well within their means."

Hertel and Sherry Gay Dagnogo aren't signaling support for Runestad’s resolution.

Gay Dagnogo said, "I don't think it's our duty or responsibility to dig in the affairs of our universities that already have a governing structure in place that can address that, but I think it's also important to point out that we've had challenges on our college [campuses] where hate speech has begun to take root, so we don't want to in this resolution or any other bill create a pathway to advance hate."

Runestad is whipping votes to get the resolution on the ballot. To make it happen, he says he will need to get two-thirds of the legislature to vote yes.

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