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The Arkansas Senate on Monday passed a bill to protect free speech and expression on college campuses.

Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, passed without dissent. It would enshrine into law free speech protections for students, administrators, faculty and staff members, and the guests of those people at state-supported institutions of higher education as long as the expression isn't unlawful or materially and substantially disruptive of the college's functioning.

The legislation comes after several speakers have been barred from speaking at universities across the U.S. due to objections from campus groups.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

The law would ban "free-speech zones," forcing policy changes at Arkansas State University and the University of Central Arkansas. Ballinger said on Monday that all outdoor areas of campus would, in essence, be free-speech zones.

According to an American Association of University Professors Committee on Government Relations' 2018 report, eight states have passed campus free-speech legislation.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.

-- Hunter Field

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