by Brandon Turbeville
South Carolina has long been known for the ridiculous and off-world bills its State House regularly submits to a vote. Indeed, the residents of the state are routinely subjected to a demonstration of the utter uselessness of the majority of its “representatives” as well as their lack of understanding and concern for civil liberties, Constitutional rights, and the general welfare of the State.
Enter another freedom-shredding bill submitted by the Constitutional non-scholar Mike Pitts, a Republican State House member from Laurens, S.C.
Pitts’ bill would establish a “responsible journalism registry” to be operated by the South Carolina Secretary of State.
The summary of the bill states that it would “establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist” as well as establish penalties, fines, and jail sentences for violations. And, of course, “for other purposes.”
A person seeking to register shall provide all information required by the office including, but not limited to, a criminal record background check, an affidavit from the media outlet attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence, and an application fee in an amount determined by the office.
(C) A registration is valid for two years and must be renewed within thirty days of expiration.
(D)(1) The Secretary of State’s Office may deny, revoke, or refuse to issue or renew a registration if the office finds that the person:
(a) has filed an application for registration that contains a statement that is false or misleading with respect to a material fact;
(b) has failed to pay the proper application fee or any other fee or penalty imposed pursuant to this chapter; or
(c) has failed to comply with any provision of this chapter.
(2) The Secretary of State’s Office shall deny, revoke, or refuse to issue or renew a registration if a media outlet has determined pursuant to Section 40-85-40 that the person is not competent to be a journalist.
(E) Upon receipt of the required information and documents, the office within thirty days shall provide a registration to the person for submission to a media outlet or a letter notifying the person of the basis for denying, revoking, or refusing to issue or renew a registration.
It then describes how a journalist will be determined competent (essentially at the whim of the Secretary of State) by stating,
Before working as a journalist for a media outlet in this State, a person shall provide a criminal record background check to the media outlet to determine journalistic competence and register with the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry. After registering, the person shall provide a copy of the registration to the media outlet. A person may not work as a journalist until the person provides a copy of a registration to the media outlet.
Section 40-85-40. (A) A person is not competent to be a journalist if:
(1) within the three years before submitting an application for registration, the person has been determined by a court of law to have committed:
(a) libel, slander, or invasion of privacy; or
(b) a felony if the underlying offense was committed to collect, write, or distribute news or other current information for a media outlet; or
(2) as a journalist, the person has demonstrated a reckless disregard of the basic codes and canons of professional journalism associations, including a disregard of truth, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness, and public accountability, as applicable to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
(B) Upon making a determination that a person is competent to be a journalist, the media outlet shall provide the person an affidavit attesting to the person’s journalistic competence for submission to the registry.
Bill Rogers, Executive Director of the S.C. Press Association says that the bill “is ridiculous and totally unconstitutional” and that the government cannot require journalists to register as the First Amendment ensures freedom of the press.
One can only imagine what fit of mental illness provoked Pitts to submit such a bill. After all, Pitts has professed his support of the Second Amendment repeatedly in the past so many might be scratching their heads as to why he is so antagonistic to the First. At this point, we are only left to guess as to why Pitts chose to launch his assault on the freedom of speech, expression, and the press.
Was it because he is bitter over all the negative publicity he has received in recent months and the threat those critical articles may have on his career of parasitism? Did Pitts lose his place while reading the U.S. Constitution and skim over the Bill of Rights? Did Pitts recently travel to Saudi Arabia and realize the Saudis have a better system? Is he suffering from an extended bout of untreated syphilis? Seriously, any of these explanations are as legitimate as the bill itself.
Regardless, Pitts’ bill should promptly be shot down. In fact, H.4702 should only be preceded in death by Pitts’ political career.
Clearly, no one in their right mind would ever support such a piece of legislation (but I didn’t say it wouldn’t pass) and no one in Pitts’ state of mind should ever be allowed to submit it.
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