Indiana state lawmaker Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, has drafted a bill that would require journalists to obtain a state-issued license to write professionally. The bill is very similar to Indiana’s concealed carry handgun legislation, and it is likely Lucas is trying to skewer gun control laws rather than actually limit the press.
But a growing number of Americans – including President Trump – believe the press needs to be restricted. Rather than making a poignant point on gun control, the bill only galvanizes those who want to restrict the First Amendment.
The bill, which has yet to be filed, would require journalists apply for a license with the Indiana State Police, pay a $75 fee and be fingerprinted. Who was granted a license to write would be determined by the police.
Those with a history of violent crime would not be eligible.
Leaving the government to decide who can be a member of the press violates the First Amendment and diminishes individual freedom. Republicans often claim to be the small government party, but this Orwellian power grab flies in the face of minimalist government.
When the Indianapolis Star asked Lucas whether or not he would actually file the bill, he said, “It depends on how egregious and irresponsible you are.”
Lucas has been critical of reporting on his efforts to remove licenses for carrying a handgun in public and seems to be threatening Indiana media outlets with the bill if they continue to act unfavorably.
Whether or not the bill is a satirical take on gun control, an elected official should not threaten the press based on his news coverage. One of the most important parts of a free society is safeguarding media from the government.
Lucas has been more libertarian in his past record as a politician. He has drafted legislation against marriage licenses and said he will release a bill next year to legalize marijuana, according to the Indianapolis Star.
This new bill and Lucas’ hostility toward the media seem alarmingly populist and combative.
Drafting this bill is incredibly irresponsible. It validates those who believe that the press is fake and gives people a platform who want to strip Americans of their constitutional rights.
Even if Lucas wrote the bill satirically, there are too many people who unironically believe that restricting speech is a good idea. The government should not have that power.
Our politicians aren’t elected to draft satire and hold it over the heads of the press. Lucas is paid with taxpayer dollars, and the people of Seymour, Indiana, shouldn’t stand for his antics on their dime. His seat will be up for reelection in 2018.
Hoosiers shouldn’t support politicians who don’t value our right to free speech and free press. The Editorial Board encourages the people of District 69 to find new leadership in the upcoming election cycle — you deserve better.