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The Arkansas House on Thursday passed a measure to protect free speech on college campuses.

Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk, and a spokesman said the governor plans to sign it into law.

The legislation would bar the creation of "free-speech zones," making generally accessible, outdoor areas of state-supported colleges and universities places that could be public forums.

The bill comes after a string of high-profile speakers were disinvited from appearances at college campuses around the U.S. because campus groups disagreed with their messages.

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

SB156 will codify 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.

Eight other states have passed similar laws.

-- Hunter Field

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