As this year’s legislative sessions are underway, the Institute for Free Speech expects legislators in more than half the states to consider speech-chilling laws or regulations in 2020. Of primary concern are efforts to expose the private information of Americans—their names, home addresses, occupations, and employers—that support nonprofit groups. Fueled by panic about the perceived threat of foreign interference in elections online and within nonprofits, and a desire by some policymakers to silence those groups with which they disagree, these proposals are designed to chill important contributions to civic debates by think tanks and advocacy groups. Making matters worse, the intense focus in the US House of Representatives on repeatedly passing legislation like H.R. 1 that would do serious damage to speech, press, assembly, and petition rights is motivating state lawmakers to introduce copycat legislation in their own states.
Potential threats to free speech and citizen privacy this year are particularly pronounced in Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. Already, voters in four states—Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, and Oregon—may see measures on their 2020 ballots that are harmful to citizen privacy and political speech freedom. Despite these efforts, the Institute for Free Speech remains vigilant and will work with an array of national and state-based groups to educate lawmakers and the public about the dangers of these proposals to free speech, citizen privacy, and a healthy democratic discourse.