FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO/Network Indiana): A House committee is trying to make an 11th-hour swerve to regulate social-media apps in Indiana.
Commerce Chairman Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) wants to fine Facebook, Twitter, or other apps if they suspend your account, or delete or limit your posts. He describes those actions as “censorship” and an infringement of free speech.
Morris filed the proposal three weeks ago, but even fellow Republicans say they were caught off guard when it popped up for a vote with no notice or discussion. The agenda called for a discussion of Morris’s bill to gut Governor Holcomb’s pandemic restrictions — Morris says he’s abandoning that bill to make room for the social media bill through the legislative maneuver known as “strip and insert.”
The committee deadlocked 6-6 on moving the bill forward, with even most of the yes votes urging a fuller hearing before a final vote. Morris later contacted the Journal Gazette to claim his bill had actually passed 7-6, but online records do not reflect that as of yet.
Next Tuesday is the deadline for committees to send bills to the full House.
The bill calls for a $50,000 fine against companies who limit a post made in Indiana or delete an Indiana user’s account.
Morris says he’s scuttling the original COVID bill because his concerns are being addressed in other legislation. A separate bill now exempts houses of worship from any emergency orders. Morris’s bill would also have prohibited any limits on business capacity or operating hours, exempted private schools, and declared hospitals can’t be ordered to pause elective surgeries.
The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected attempts to go even further, by banning any business restrictions at all, and either capping emergency declarations at 30 days or eliminating the governor’s emergency powers entirely.