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AUSTIN – The Texas House has passed HB 2730, which intends to adopt strong free speech protections and implement reforms under the Texas Citizens Participation Act.
The bill was passed April 30 on a vote of 143-1.
HB 2730’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) said the bill was a result of the TCPA having “been abused, misapplied, and misinterpreted – resulting in unintended consequences for Texas citizens.”
“The final version of House Bill 2730 is the result of a collaborative team effort, with a multitude of stakeholders working together over the past several months to perfect the legislation and ensure the strongest free speech protections in the nation,” Leach said in a statement issued from the House chamber. “I am proud of the broad coalition that stands behind this bill and I am excited to have the overwhelming support of my colleagues in the Texas House.”
Adopted by the legislature in 2011, the TCPA allows a citizen to dispute a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP, based on his or her statements in exercise of his or her right of free speech, petition, or association.
According to Leach, different stakeholders have argued that the TCPA “has been misapplied in ways the legislature did not intend, including family law and enforcement of trade secrets.”
“As a result, various judges, lawyers and other parties have called for revising the statute to ensure clarification and prevent misuse,” the suburban Dallas lawmaker said.
Critics of HB 2730 fear the legislation seriously damaged the TCPA and infringed upon the First Amendment.
If enacted, the bill will prevent anti-SLAPP motions from being used against procedural motions and ensure that communications about topics of public interest are protected.
The Texas Senate has the bill for consideration.